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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Nanson

Natural Words: An Anthology of Nature Poetry - review by Helen Moore

Updated: Sep 2, 2021

'Although nearly all these poems appear in print here for the first time, reading the eight voices included, all strikingly distinct, offers a pervasive sense of united poetic intention. The anthology’s subtitle, ‘Righting the land left’, reflects an earth-centric and regenerative perspective among a group of writers who have regularly met for nearly two decades to share their work, and with whom I too collaborated. The group evolved, as Dr Kevan Manwaring explains in his introduction, through a course he ran in Bath in 2003, entitled ‘Creative Writing and the Environment’. Most of the poems in this anthology (a sequel to Writing the Land, which was edited by Manwaring, explore facets of this relationship – and, standing in the Bardic tradition, often echo aspects of our native oral heritage, as praise songs (of place, wild creatures, seasons, natural phenomena) and as laments of ecological destruction.

'Threads of Celtic mythology, ceremony, and history are woven throughout like seams of crystal ("Hawkstone", "Prayer to the Hare at Lammas", "From Ritual", etc.). Rock is also seen to reflect human outrage at the devastation to which "images without redress/cars computers fleshly decay" contribute: "A rock that I know/is a tear drop/at rest/in permanent protest" (from "No Titles", Trevor D. Davies). This kind of deep knowing suggests the sacred kinship that our ancestors once felt for the world they inhabited, and which we’re now belatedly remembering as our social and ecological interdependence with human and other-than-human beings. At the same time the act of creation – the pains taken to express experiences in imagery and language – indicates the human potential for remaking the beauty and integrity of this fragile world. As Judith Young writes so beautifully in "Forest of Words": "This morning I creep through the forest of words/Seeking a wild verb,/An adjective lurking in the shadow of a leaf,/As difficult to find as a pebble of quartz/With a thousand years in its layers." I’m sure these poems will inspire their readers to go seeking too.'

Helen Moore is a British ecopoet with three collections, Hedge Fund, and Other Living Margins (2012), ECOZOA(2015), acclaimed as ‘a milestone in the journey of ecopoetics’, and The Mother Country(2019), exploring British colonial history. Helen offers an online mentoring programme, Wild Ways to Writing, and works with students internationally. In 2020 her work was supported by the Royal Literary Fund and Arts Council England.

Natural Words: An Anthology of Nature Poetry was published in 2020 by New Generation Publishing. It contains poems by Misha Carder, Richard Carder, Trevor D. Davies, Keri Hendy, Richard Selby, Judith Young, Dave Angus, and Mary Palmer.

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