HappenStance, 2007 - £4.00 www.happenstancepress.com
Here is a meditation on the physics and art of playing the oboe which is as much, if not more, about a way of living. Margaret Christie’s quirky, light, humorous style is perfect for conveying it, as are the forms she chooses. Meditation, of course, is about breathing:
Breathing is the link
Between playing the oboe
And staying alive
The word “breathing” is a constant throughout the book, as though poetry, too, is a kind of breathing.
Somehow, a cormorant is significant, appearing in two poems, striking attitudes of commentary during practice in one, and, remarkably, practising the cor anglais part of the The Rite of Spring in another. Must be a special Scottish breed. And, oh dear—love—isn’t it difficult?
Unsupported love in my thoughts
And all around me, unseen.
Supported love is on display
The black cloud carries the sun away
Over the threshold to the wedding day.
The shorter poems work best of all. The tone is harder to sustain in the longer ones. The four-poem sequence ‘Triads and Errors’ sags under the weight of its ambition, and I struggled to find what linked the four parts.
They do, however, contain the wonderfully funny lines “Only the true radical/ Will ever know an onion as a friend”. Red ones are my mates.
And all the while we’re reading, we’re breathing, as in the final poem, ‘Dancing at Allershaw’:
We breathe out, except we don’t.
However much we empty, there is always more.
Breathing in the hills, we breathe out the dance.