One copy, inc. P & P.
For a review by Jack O’Donnell, click here.
Byron Beynon has written a review of the book for North of Oxford, click here.
To read a wonderful review by Sammi Cox, click here.
This is a rich and intense read that puts humanity mostly in the background and natural life in the foreground like a lifelong love affair, and long may the affair continue beyond this first full collection. What the Owl Taught Me is full of poems of frailty with an underpinning strength that allows for delight on every printed page. JAMES BELL
Annest has written about animals I know and shown them in a different light. Now I feel I see them through her eyes and they are renewed, because of it. I am impressed with these poems because of that but even more so with the way each of these poems in revealing something of the animal, real or imagined, reveal something of ourselves. JIM BENNETT, POETRY KIT
Gwilym’s bestiary ranges widely. There are traditional figures of celebration, the bats which “pour like mercury” from doors, and the seals off Bardsey, “whale-road-divers”. There are sinister imagined beasts, like The Nightmare Bird, “a demon-bird with horns”.
There is strong environmental warning in the found poem Still Life with Flotsam and Litter. My favourite poem is City Foxes, in which the narrator’s night is redeemed by the creatures, “Liquid, acrobatic, a swirl of autumn”. Finally the serene visionary poem, There Are Horses. A beautiful collection. ROBERT NISBET
LAST NIGHT I BECAME AN EMPEROR MOTH
I rode through the liquid night,
as a melon-slice moon crested a bank of cloud.
Part of the hush and curve of the universe;
Pleiades above me a diamond cluster ring.
Clothed in starlight, wings powdered,
furry belly glossy and plump.
Left the moor for a jaunt to the seaside,
over towns with flickering lights and strange smells.
Saw the sea corrugated by waves,
tang of salt quickening my senses.
Shimmied and played chase with the ladies,
rested with them on marram grass.
Birdsong ushered in the return of the sun;
drowsy, went home to sleep in the heather.
There to wait for my lover; my musk strong,
it will draw him from miles. He will come,
wings taut with blood. Antennae fresh as ferns.
Owl eyes pulsing with life like coals.
THE MOON HEDGEHOG
One night the moon cracked open
and out he tumbled, with newborn spines
that pricked the air in their fire-beauty,
while the constellations sang.
Golden-tipped sea urchin, he fled
through looms of leaves fingered by spiders
and night-crackling grass as the moon,
tangled in branches, smiled her lamp.
Hedgepig, he sucked milk from drowsy cows
as his black-star eyes bored holes in the night.
In spotlit hedgerows he snuffed for snails,
while a fox bark thrilled the slumbering woods.
A barn owl chafed the caverns of sleep;
all night he snuffled, snaffled slugs and worms,
blackened his lips with soft blackberries,
fell asleep at dawn drunk on moon-juice.
Those nights when the Eurostar
clanked and clattered past, tunnelling
through the night, setting the china
to clink and quake and the whole bed
to shake, when the only other people
awake were red-nosed drunks
and night workers in hushed streets,
I would look out of the bedroom window –
eyes stinging with sleeplessness,
a mouthful of gin burning on my palate,
blood stilled like wet brown leaves –
at the dull grass of the communal garden,
a spotlit stage, and wait for foxes
to arrive from nearby waste ground.
Liquid, acrobatic, a swirl of autumn,
with a feline leap from the fence they landed,
velvet-footed, spangle-faced, a mother
and kits who rolled and played, dived
and pounced on curls of dead leaves.
Parched and dusty border plants
seemed to lean in and applaud them.