Envoi #157 October 2010
-Reviewed by Juliet Wilson–
Envoi is a UK based poetry journal that has been going since 1957, under various editors, currently Jan Fortune-Wood. One of the aspects of Envoi that I particularly like is that it actually showcases poets. This issue features seven poems from Abegail Morley (shortlisted last year for best first collection in the Forward Prize) and five poems from guest poet Char March. Every other poet included is represented with at least two poems or a lengthy sequence, as opposed to the many poetry journals that often feature only single poems from individual poets. Envoi also includes a number of clearly written, in-depth reviews of poetry collections and the winners of the latest Envoi competition along with the adjudicator’s report. I always find adjudicator’s reports fascinating and insightful, though I rarely agree with the conclusions! Recently entries to the competition have declined so it will in future only be an annual event rather than the quarterly event it has been so far.
In this issue, there is a good selection of poems dealing with nature and set in rural areas, some of which deal with environmental issues. Among Char March’s varied poems is ‘ ‘There will only be a loss of 352’ which details the loss of oak trees during the widening of a road widening scheme in Ardnamurchan in 2008. Martyn Halsall’s ‘Hut of the Shadows’ is also set in the Scottish Highlands and beautifully evokes the atmosphere and mystery of the unknown history of the hut in the title – ‘its legends peat smoke listing in ancient air’. Also set in a similar setting (though there is a Dun Beg in Ireland as well as one in Scotland so I don’t want to assume too much!) Peter Johnson’s sparely written poem ‘Dun Beg’ ends with the vivid lines:
‘The gale that burgles our breath transports
the black raven across the white sky.’
The same poet gives us a landscape of sheep in the aptly titled ‘Sheep’ and an exploration of the nature of the universe and the dark side in ‘Dark Matters’, hence demonstrating how Envoi’s policy of publishing a number of poems by each poet can give the reader a better feel for the poet’s range.
Richard Williams has two poems here. ‘21st Century Fairy Tales’ takes as its starting point the fact that the 2009 Wildlife Photographer of the Year winner was stripped of his award when it was found he had used a tame wolf in his photo. From there he muses on how we embellish our memories in the same way as a photographer uses online editing tools. His other poem is ‘Schrodinger’s Cat’ is a meditation on the uncertainty principle and the apparent meaninglessness of much of life ‘as icebergs are calving in the Barents Sea’. This is a poem I keep re-reading, it is haunting in its effect.
I also liked Bob Beagrie’s thoughts in The Star pub in ‘Ronin’ as:
‘I sip the stout and sigh, think of a picture
Of the Horse Headed Nebulae in my daughter’s
Encyclopaedia of the Universe, rearing up
With a mane of hydrogen clouds, 1.5 thousand
Light years away; let it bloom in my mind like sakura,
Watch it canter, kick up a spray of frozen satellites’
(sakura is the Japanese cherry blossom, perhaps a note here would have been helpful for some readers?).
The poetry in this issue of Envoi is varied in content and style, with a lot of very good poems from a varied selection of mostly UK based poets. Well worth a read!