In her fourth collection Janet Sutherland explores the farm where she grew up; a 90-acre dairy farm in Wiltshire, rented by her parents, where they milked 50 cows and reared heifers on the nearby water meadows. The collection examines the farm as home from early beginnings to the farm auction at the end of their working lives. It is a poetry of landscape and water, of birds, beasts and other creatures, of life lived cheek by jowl with death, of memory and forgetfulness; all of it rooted in place. There's an engaging inventiveness of form: a disused water mill reveals poems in its old bricks, the drowner revels in his craft, the work of the farm is observed with rigour and lyricism, investigating the uses of memory and landscape as routes to understanding. The final sections zoom outwards, challenging us to look at earth itself as a home farm.
"a snowy field with silent rooks and seagulls as in our awkwardness as in enduranceThere is no consolation in this work but the courage it requires of you to read on to the end and, when you have, the place of quiet repose it leaves you in. There is a tact, a tender truthfulness, that leaves language alone and lets everything touched on speak for itself. In `Pepys and a nightingale' her father takes her out to hear the nightingale: `It's plain, he said, `plain brown, just listen'. Years later his daughter returns the compliment in `Measures of distance', her account of his death, so delicately done you hold your breath as you read. Though generously inclusive in its referencing and recycling of a wide variety of texts from `the real world' - family letters, a coroner's report, a bill of sale of all the stock and tackle of a dairy farm, even a literature search conducted by an AI - in the end this is a poetry from which `all the shadows the reflections / the deceits have passed'. I cannot offer it higher praise than that." -Gillian Allnutt
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