reviewing jackdaw’s songs of the north

img_8071Out of darkness, the bleakest point from the island, came cobbled thoughts, a flash of ink blended with salt – now nights have cleared, here comes my humble impressions of jackdaw’s blend of geopoetics inside his début collection, Heading North.

“Heading North”, by Andrew James Murray, is the second volume from Nordland Publishing’s Song of the North Series. Its author defines himself as a northern guy with a northern accent and attitude, yet attracted to even more northern latitudes, landscapes and who follows in the tradition of both geographical and inner landscapes – bleaker in places, mysterious and remote. His journey takes us from the comfort of his familiar Manchester world to the Ring of Brodgar on a far away archipelago bathed by both a sea and an ocean, via a myriad of known & unknown places – Berlin, Prague to the cobbled streets of Stromness. But it also takes us across gritty and sometimes wonderfully chiselled inner scapes.

It all begins at midnight in summer.

Blind to great masses / that dance in dark orbits. / And a soft, summer wind. Midnight, July.

There is game of light and dark as poems juxtapose the poet’s mood and sense of place. From the Spanish Hills to Backyard, we meander through light shafts at will to find ourselves in the scarce sunlight.

There is elegance in simplicity,

The sunflower / grows alone,/ […] and a penchant for flattery. Sunflower

And there comes the jackdaw.

The one robed in capes / swooping first over parched soil / and shrivelled roots – from Storm Coming.

Poetics scapes towering contrasts, I love the allieration from Row Mojo,

the bleak blushes of dusk, and from sensuality we find ourselves drinking beyond oblivion, sometimes eating death, tasting ash, eating a father. Brutal and yet poetical.

We are tossed at sea like guillemots inside tides; we know we are heading north. That’s when the zenith turns to twilight. From the dockland to the ocean to reach the realms of the northern lands. As we progress throgh the poet’s journey, we wander though dark lands. And then we hit winter, as we reach ravaged, savage scapes & its dwellers, the crows.

Yet we are tossed between seasons, as we are drawn to the blackbird that emerges with exquisite sensuality, songstress of the twilight / I am lost in your song.

I am sensitive to the poet’s observation of his surroundings, real or not. The raw beauty of a savage sky, in this rugged hour, / a low inter sun / glazes soft… From Savage Sky.

A solitary road, cobbled, winding, / […] engineered perhaps, to break the tumult / of wind and sea … From Stromness. I believe George MacKay Brown would have smiled.

Without a question or a doubt, Andrew James Murray’s poetic collection certainly encompasses key elements of geopoetical dimension, and gives the reader a sense of north. His quest took him as high as Orkney. Elegant in places, harsh and chiselled with flair and savagery in others, Heading North is an invitation to beauty. Very much recommended.

Merci pour ta poésie, mon ami :-).

Jackdaw sings with corvids, the rawness of a northern song, and a blackbird.

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8 Comments

Filed under 2016, arts, birds, blogging, celebration, colours, geopoetics, literature, migration, north, poet, poetry, poets, review, spirit, verse, verse poetry

8 responses to “reviewing jackdaw’s songs of the north

  1. Reblogged this on City Jackdaw and commented:
    Here is a wonderful review of my book, Heading North, written by the great poet Nat Hall from her Shetland perch. My gratitude to her.

  2. What a lovely review! I quite agree that “Heading North is an invitation to beauty.” Well put.

  3. “North” sits on a coffee table in our sun room, facing south….. We take turnspicking it up and reading a poem or two, then replace it on the table. The volume holds place, awaiting our next visit. Thank you for the poems and for sharing this review with us.

  4. You have me intrigued! You have a way of making the words dance.

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