An independent small press poetry review

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The Stables
Stewart Park
ISBN 1 899503 63 3

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This page last updated: 11th December 2007.

There are moments in a reviewer's life when you become aware that you are reading work, not only of talent, but also of importance. This is the case with the polymath talents of this writer. Trained as an artist, she has worked as a ceramicist, and her august writing career takes in a frequently widening collection of residencies and literary prizes and fellowships.

Her teaching career is also wide, working from W.E.A. classes to The University of Leeds and The Open College of the Arts. SWIM is her second full-length collection; her first, BETWEEN CLOUDS AND CAVES was published in 1988, and she has published four pamphlets between 1996 and 2000 and there are three other books and a number of CDs to her credit. Roger Garfitt describes her

as a conjuror with real stars up her sleeve ... surprising us into a fresh awareness of the extraordinary reality we inhabit
whilst Ian McMillan has said,
You can get at the truth in all kinds of different ways, and that's what Pat Borthwick does.

Her work reflects her interest in astronomy as well as the way that terrestrial landscape and man have shaped each other. She excavates, illuminates and records language that might otherwise remain hidden or lost. Sound, sense and shape are integral elements in all her finely crafted work. The root of her poetic style is the ability to make the philosophical and complex feel both immediate and simple. She is not afraid to use her personal tragedies and griefs as a springboard for her analysis of the human condition. The poetry is not clouded with the clever phrasing of academe; Pat Borthwick tells it as it is, and we, as readers, are the better for it.

Living her life on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors her work touches on the tragedies of foot and mouth in BOUGHT CAKES

	Staring us in the face it was. What
	else, with the wagons on the verge
	refusing to come up our drive?
	the feed bins almost empty
	and us ready for new Point of Lays.
	Despite all our careful phone calls
	The transport refused driving through the gates
		Government instructions.
	But no one thought to mention them to us.

	Eleven hour shifts we worked,
	with one hour off, not stopping till three days on
 	we saw it done. Our hands were raw, our wrists
	and arms and backs in a rhythm that let in pain
	once it slowed. Jen had to hold the mug to my mouth,
	cut up my food, undo my fly and that.
	Not too long before the stench wormed
	From the shed and under all our doors.
	Jen fetched empty paper sacks and rags, me wood,
	Then down for that drum of sump……….

	One match.
	Will that do? Never did like cameras.
	Can you turn it off now? An arts programme?
	I'm sorry they were only bought cakes.
And the implied tragedy of BIDDING (farm auction, Devon 2002)
	when the bidding's done and they've all gone
	to where they still call home, I watch stars
	The new publican will boast about his bargains
	then make rustic features of long-handled tools.
	He'll offer free halves to those who come closest
	to naming his buys and guess what the used to do.
	Change, always change, And who can say for sure
	that the future, or today, is less than past? Or more?
	Whether at our close we're tagged and set aside
		... our farms
	shrink back and rust. Children draw animals in dust.
	Wives mop phantom milk from dairy floors.
There are country matters in LEARNING ABOUT BATS, LEAVES, SEED, HEDGES, DEER, SNAKE as well as the poignant FOREST (for my father)
	I will remember you
	by the fullest moon
	over the lowest tide on Sutton Sands.
	You said to wait and watch,
	to listen for that last wave's slap
	before the turn.  Sh    . Soon!
	And you stood rock-still.
	Then I knew I didn't want soon to begin.
	I didn't want our waiting to stop.
	Glittering black stumps
	emerge from their underwater clay-beds.
	Rank after stoic rank horizon.
	Fossils glisten in their fissures.
	All history now.
Thirty two poems in all, including the sequence poems BOUGHT CAKES, SWIM, and the very personal HOSPITAL CORNERS and LETTER(for my brother).

The range is as wide as poetry itself. From the wry humour of PATRICK MOORE BLOWS A FUSE

	In his domed and rattly house 
	Patrick Moore, with a wobbling candle,
	Searches through his cupboards.
	He finds boxes of charged particles.
	Old tins of quarks. His drawers are filled
	With faded nebulae and quasars, dead stars.
	He shuffles in his Glo-Moon slippers.
	to scan for a future comet with his name.
	But first to find a screwdriver and fuse,
	to mend the plug, its copper wires
	frayed and fanned like solar flares.
	He's eager for more light years
	that might illuminate a vanishing today.
to regeneration in the deceptively simple. SEEDS
	Down, deep into the quiet earth
	They stretch and spread their roots
	Driven by a common thirst
	And the slake of that is deafening —
	So loud, shoots rocket to the surface
	With pale fingers in their ears
	Until, escaped and calm,
	They unfurl and wave green flags —
	Look, we're here
If you only buy one poetry book this decade, make sure it is this one.

reviewer: John Cartmel-Crossley.