An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
Three Cats Press
IV21 2DZ
ISBN 0 9547630 2 5

read a review of a calendar by Ian Blake & June Miller

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The slim chapbook FRUITS DES SAISONS, by Ian Blake, contains a series of ten poems on the delights of fruit. The book is modest in conception but is marked by its stylistic quality and the finesse of its thought. There is a fresh, engaging speaking voice throughout, whether he is recollecting "last year's bounty" in FRESH RASPBERRIES, evoking the past in LOST APPLES or celebrating the planting of the apricot in APRICOT. The tone is gutsy, yet genial, street-wise yet sophisticated, tough-minded yet affectionate, intellectually nuanced yet prepared to affirm the views of most aficionados of the humble fruit.

FRESH RASPBERRIES gives the poet's view of fruit preserved from the previous season and now de-frosted to serve after a mouth-watering meal of

	tender asparagus,
	peppered butter-sauce;
	blossomy summer wine;
	spring lamb, earliest peas,
	mint-sauce, small potatoes
	from the Scilly Isles.
As the poet observes in BY NOW THE ORANGE TREES, a grove of orange trees forces him to consider and note that,
	the memory
	is worth a poem.
As I read and reflect on Blake's poems, I realise how the many layers of meaning of the title FRUITS DES SAISONS are embedded in this collection, adding to the way the poems work on the reader's imagination. CRAB-APPLE JELLY, for instance, may take many of us back to childhood when the cooked fruit was strained through cheesecloth to make jars of glimmering jelly:
	Making it is fun:
	slice, or quarter all,
	this rosy-cheeked, acidic, fruit
	so round and small.
Blake is fully aware of the history of fruit and in APRICOT, he recalls the way in which apricots were planted by a royal gardener who
	tied them out of reach.
NECTARINE also looks beneath the surface of things, where,
	An over-rouged, gallant, old Madam
who is long past her best, puts on a show for her consumers. AT HEROD'S GATE takes us to a scene where men, who have cultivated, gathered and guarded their melons, now bring them to market to sell:
	As evening falls
	and lamps are lit along the sleepy stalls,
	high-stacked, the melons gleam like round cheese
	keeping a green eye on our black world
	all night long.
He addresses the succulence of peaches (and also their over-ratedness) in the poem PEACH:
	Perhaps the time has come to knock the peach
	down from its pedestal.
	the moment has arrived
	to take it down a peg or two.
The poems in this collection range across many fruits, from those remembered from childhood to the long poem BLUE PLUMS, where the poet recalls his Uncle Harry and how he was able to bear the ordeal of his Uncle's death by retreating to his inner world of memory or imagination:
	Autumn. September sunshine and another
	plumtime memory, from another year:
	childish intuition knows before
	she opens it, that these tall, blurry, black
	silhouettes, unfaced by bubble-glass,
	and coloured panes which light the closed
	front door,
	bring no good news.
Blake is a great observer of the way in which fruit is part of our lives, and he brings it to life for us in the poems. Some of the poems give us a vivid glimpse into the poet's own life, into his joys and pain. They are simple, yet moving.

Whatever he writes about, Blake remains connected with the natural world and is sustained by it, and even when the poems cross the line between simple descriptions of fruit and personal recollection, the sense of wonder shines through. He uses language simply and effectively to make us experience the world as he does, to see and feel and taste the fruit. His poems shimmer with sensual images, colour and light. Together, the poems in this collection form a rich and thought-provoking narrative.

reviewer: Patricia Prime