An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
Fighting Cock Press
45 Middlethorpe Drive
YO24 1NA
ISBN 0 906744 18 0

Thalia Press
Dean Head Farm
Scotland Lane
LS18 5HU
ISBN 0 9543237 0 X
£5 [+65p p&p]

Redbeck Press
24 Aireville Road
ISBN 1 904338 15 1

Parish Church of St Edward the Confessor
ISBN 0 9533851 1 6

Visit the website of Fighting Cock Press
Read a poem by Pauline Kirk at Pickings
Read also the obit by Ian M Emberson and Brian Merrikin Hill's poem The Party

The author's latest collection is Envying the Wild.

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This page last updated: 27th May 2008.

Brian Merrikin Hill (1917-1997) was a tall giant of a man. This book is a very fitting tribute. Pauline Kirk tells us not only of the poet's background, and of how the events of his life shaped his work. She introduces us to the poetry and some of the deep beliefs that lie behind and within it. Not only that but she tells her own story of how through Hill's concern with teaching others, he taught her how to shape her own poetry. He influenced her to read widely outside the mainstream and encouraged her to take an interest in local history.

An appendix reprints seven of his poems. The poems are contrasting in style but all have the mark of a genius. Included is one of my favourite Hill poems THIXENDALE which begins

	I went alone there once and in rare moments recalled 
	how five lanes, some single-tracked with passing-places 
	(like scottish roads), reached it by creating calm 
	between chalk screes grass speckled green on white. 
	Empty fields edged quarries where nothing needed to happen.

reviewer: Gerald England.

Pauline Kirk's volume, OWLSTONE, is full of good poems. Her style varies, and there is much experimentation going on within the diverse poems on offer here. As far as the appearance of the volume goes, however, I felt that although I liked the cover drawing by Wendy Cantell, I did consider that the illustrations throughout the text were unnecessary and rather detracted from the poems themselves. As with many volumes of poetry, I felt that the poems stood well enough alone, and did not need sketches to illuminate them. Having said this, Kirk's is a good volume with much to recommend it to readers.

Poems such as NEGLECTED GARDEN with lines like:

	Crusted, the colour of treacle,
	mud suffocates a withering lake —
	once a mill owner's pride
provide readers with a series of memorable vignettes and images. Kirk is good at the natural world, and the precise colours and textures of it. I like
	crusted, the colour of treacle
as it is so textural that it is painterly. Likewise, in BEECH NUT, the nut is
	soft and furry as a hamster’s back.
The strength of such imagery is Kirk's best quality. The only poem in the volume that I couldn't get along with was SCARBOROUGH: IN MEMORY OF ANNE, written to commemorate Anne Brontė. The poet's view of Brontė as an unsung literary heroine, and, therefore, as a woman whose work is still considered second rate seems at odds with recent critical reclamations of Brontė as a great nineteenth-century novelist. It wasn't that I didn't like the poem, just that I found the sentiment behind it rather misplaced.

However, one poem that you don't get on with in a whole volume is to be expected, and the volume is a good one. I liked BRANCH LINE about how Kirk considers the landscape of her childhood to have been altered, and I also enjoyed FLOTSAM, again about the processes of memory. Colour and light play precisely through Kirk's work, as here in BEYOND LEATHLEY:

	Now lintels hewn by giants frame a broken sky;
	balance door shafts in Georgian symmetry.
	A courtyard shines through grass
Such lines best express her style's best quality, a precision of light and dark, and a painterly way of seeing.

reviewer: Deborah Tyler-Bennett.

An A5 book of poems which includes work from SCORPION DAYS, RED MARL, BRICK, RIGHTS OF WAY, TRAVELLING SOLO, NO CURE IN TEARS, and OWLSTONE. The selection also contains new poems. Pauline Kirk received a New Beginnings Award in 1996 from Yorkshire Arts. She is a talented novelist who was born in Birmingham and travelled to Australia. She lives in Yorkshire. This selection is generously sprinkled with her travel experiences. For instance, there is RED CENTRE, which begins:

	Below us, the Outback unfolds:
	parched river beds meander,
	grey-green through yellowing ills.
	Then the real desert begins.
	Warm and red and deadly, it waits,
	beneath derisory clouds.
The selection also contains poems that draw on historical events, and their effects on everyday lives. In OUTBREAK OF WAR the poet looks at the reaction to the news of imminent war:
	Work must be done, whatever the news.
	The labourer tilled his field
	while Napoleon camped beyond his hedge.
	As Anthony and Cleopatra fought,
	their slaves went on chiselling.
The focus is on the threading of events that Kirk delves into to make sense of life. ANOTHER NEWS ITEM explores the effect of news about a murderer:
	No doubt they thanked him,
	apologised for being a nuisance.
	How do those of us who remain cope,
	explain the inexplicable?
A particular favourite is called AFTER TODAY'S NEWS. This poem contemplates death, and ends with a reference to Milton:
	Was this how it felt, Milton?
	The surprise, not quite believing,
	Seeing everything with new eyes,
	Knowing you might be losing the old?
Kirk's poems are imaginative and laced with passion. They are accessible and explore the irony of life.

reviewer: Doreen King.

This 36-page collection of poems by Kirk is self-typeset and well illustrated by tasteful black and white half-tones. She has published seven previous collections, is author of three novels, has broadcast, and is Senior Partner in the Fighting Cock Press, with Mabel Ferrett, who hosts the Pennine Poets.

The volume is a pleasure to handle — an under-realised subjective factor for first touch by any budding critic, contributed to by the general aesthetics of cover, illustrations and type balance. The poetry is traditionally descriptive without straining for effect. Some of the work is somewhat of an antidote, although not evangelistic, to declining attendances in the Christian Church — a poetry closer to church roots which seems more effective than any need to substitute modernistic poetic approaches to the problem. The Vicar of St.Edward's, also Rural Dean of York, says

Pauline's gifts have been offered to St. Edwards in many guises... She reads from the Bible, takes part in dramatic readings and sings in the choir.
Her inner faith produced FOR CHRISTINA ROSSETTI, relevant to CR's IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER who had ended her hymn with
	If I were a Wise Man,
	I would do my part;
	Yet what I can I give
	Him: give my heart.
affecting Kirk's responses:
	As I walk into a London Winter, my mind
	Sings your rhythms, your carols lift my soul. 
	Watching Christmas lights plait along the river,
	I thank you, Christina, woman to woman. 
	Your bleak Midwinter has thawed my own.
Kirk again reveals her emotions in a visit to Eyam, in PLAGUE VILLAGE, where so many chose to remain to die and not flee, emphasising their courage and neighbourliness — some dedicated to the church
	But what of those men of God, William and Thomas? How did they 
	Persuade to a heroic death folk more used to cheating at cards
	Or drinking porter? The waiting must have been the worst . . .
The poem ends:
	I am crying, standing in a busy street.
In so doing, it passes on the pathos to a sensitive reader very effectively.

In CHRISTMAS IRREVERENTS she considers the other side of the coin, which becomes shinier as the real face of Christmas is dulled to extinction:

	Christmas is acoming
	The streets are being lit.
	Please put a twenty
	In the Ad man's hat.
Via the facility of bringing to attention the Christian spirit and conveying the adverse side, in my opinion Pauline Kirk's work ranks high. The fact that I am paganistic and the poems still 'come through' also seems much in favour of elevation of her poetic status.

reviewer: Eric Ratcliffe.