April feels a brigant, with its hoards of dark clouds filling our springtime skies with their trillions of icicles, haily puckles, sleet, snowflakes… As if wir voar (our Nordic spring season) was trapped and confined to each afternoon.
Yet, tis not about our abominable moorie caavie (violent blizzard) this blog post is devoted, but to a book review I had longed to complete.
Time is both a blessing and a curse.
A.J. Murray’s second collection of poetry opens with the gentle and yet vibrant title poem, in which he begins his imaginary journey by the river, setting a vivid scene and a strong sense of place, inviting us, each reader, to ready for this journey,
“sitting by the river, / rounded aesthetics / rolling down a verdigris valley”
taking us back deep into times where Caesar’s legions clashed with a queen he names later,
“Coins, unearthed in soil / Roman – no hoard”
…That sense of place, geographical as well as in time.
Murray’s strong sense of place is echoed in the second poem, Valley. The poet brushes a very dark and mystical nano-universe by addressing a queen:
“Cartimandua, / history has not been kind to you” (…) this glade holds the bodies of ancient warriors, / fallen in forgotten battles”.
Murray the Mancunian feels eager to transcend time itself when he feels that urge to step into Brigantia, his Narnia:
“I need to come here / I’m urbanized”…
A feeling he develops through the subsequent poems Moor, Hillfort, The Way Trees Speak, Hinged Moments or Motorway, in which Murray also flirts with a certain sense of entrapment:
“Our country is too small for road trips.”
A powerful statement.
His own modern version of Brigantia emerges from sprinkled poems throughout the book, Something Urban, Stone Shale Earth, Rainy Day Blues, Nocturnes, and the beautiful Kittiwakes,
“Kittiwakes on iron girders, / man-made cliff edges / to which they return to breed, / away from the tumult / of the North Sea”.
So evocative of my own Nordic world.
Murray the poet wishes us to travel with him through his dreamy Brigantia whilst bumping into iconic or notorious personalities, Marylyn Monroe, Hitler or Elvis (!) notably through Salted, Routes, Journey, Night Poem, Eddie or Mytholmroyd, to close with Cranes,
“Cranes in the sky / and I wonder why (…) embroidered words / on an unraveling sky.”
Well chiselled, dark, poignant with a pinch of Mancunian humour itself descendent from a brigant, A.J. Murray’s second collection transports us in his Brigantia.
My question is, where next? Orkney Birds seem to point the way.
In Brigantia is available on Amazon, ISBN 9781731271365.