I’ve been following Lorna Smithers’ blog for some time now, so when I heard she had put together an anthology of poetry, I went straight over to Lulu and ordered a copy. It’s taken me a while to get a review together, not least because I do not like to read poetry quickly. One or two at a time and then space to ponder is my preferred approach. Consequently I don’t get through poetry at the same pace a prose book of this size would allow. I like that about poetry, I value the slowing down and the encouragement to savour and reflect.
Lorna is a skilful poet, who crafts exquisitely with language. If you like beautiful wordcraft, I expect you are going to like this collection. As a writer and a teller of tales, Lorna has an amazing ability to get inside a story, a person or a worldview and speak from that place. Some of her poems are narrative, and there’s a sprinkling of short stories that help make connections between ideas, tales and histories. I had a real sense this was someone channelling voices other than their own at times, and that’s really powerful to encounter.
Poems are gathered into theme based sections, which I found very helpful. The concentrated effect of looking at place, history and deity and juxtaposing different poems on the same subject really worked for me. There are some interesting issues raised by this not being my landscape and not, for the greater part, connecting with my understanding of the divine. Curiously, Lorna and I live in the two places in the UK that have connections with the Celtic dreaming and healing deity, Nodens. Her experience of him in Northern England is very different from my perspective down here on the Severn. This did not trouble me at all, nor did it interfere with my enjoyment of her work.
It’s clear reading these poems that they exist as part of Lorna’s journey. They come from research into local history, and deep connection with landscape as well as personal spiritual experience. This is writing that reflects a life lived thoughtfully and with attention paid. As such it offers a kind of doorway to anyone interested in working with the land, and with the ancestors of place. In reading the poems you can get a sense of the kinds of things a poet might do to arrive at these insights and understandings. This is a path any of us might walk, but we each have to work with our own places, histories and relationships with these things. Seeing how someone else does it is an inspiration, and a place from which to start your own journey.
I have some approach and intention in common with Lorna. I recognise in her a fellow traveller who is engaging with their locality and making relationship with place in some really personal ways. For me, that transcended all issues of difference. I think for the good of the land, and for the good of humanity, we need more people out there consciously walking the earth and bringing back stories and insights.
I can very much recommend this book, and I hope others will find it opens doors for them.