An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
Poetry Monthly Press
39 Cavendish Road
Long Eaton
NG10 4HY
ISBN 1 905126 55 7

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This page last updated: 10th December 2007.

I am not a lover of nature poems. In fact, the only ones I like are those used as an analogy for something deeper. And deep is not a word I can use to describe UNDER THE SUN. It is light reading, perfect for your grandmother or maiden aunt. Nothing to tax the mind is contained within. Nothing to excite it either. It is just a nice, easy, what-you-see-is-what-you-get chapbook.

It is good to review what you wouldn't normally look at. It gives you the opportunity to broaden your tastes, and occasionally to be pleasantly shocked out of the blinkered taste you have immersed yourself in. So, I sit here asking myself what it was that has made me 'enjoy' UNDER THE SUN. It is not the stylistic gymnastics of the poet, nor the deep messages contained within her poetry. Her book is relaxing. It is pretty. It is enjoyable and will not tax your mind to the extent you cannot stop thinking about it for the rest of the day. While her subject matter is unoriginal, the majority of her images are, and that is what saves this collection from the scrapheap. Take for example, PEACOCK:

	As wren, blackbird and lark pipe in the dawn,
	the waking peacock cries, then struts the lawn.
	A long-stemmed feather loosens, falls and lies,
	its spreading tip a cool matchstick flame.
	Indoors, the clocks chime, every hour the same.
Reading this poem quickly, one would miss the significance of the last two images. The cool, blue flame that is the eye at the tip of the peacock feather and the relentless monotony of time signified by the chiming of the clock. These are interesting images. Another image I liked was that in SUN:
	But vapour, whether clouds or mist,
	or more invisibly diffused, muffles the sun
	and turns it rubicund, a fruit with leaves,
	rhubarb and lemon, violet and tangerine.
The sky becomes a fruit bowl, or an orchard, the colours of bounty mirrored by the giver of life. That is a lovely way to look at a sunset. Original, unlike that contained in many of her plant haiku. I am no expert on haiku, but surely Strachan could have come up with something more original than for FIELD POPPY in TEN PLANT HAIKU:
	Flowers of war dead.
	Scarlet poppies in cornfields.
	Wreathing cenotaphs.
What a waste, what a cliché. Strachan has created the opportunity to revitalise the way we see plants, but she has failed to capitalise on it. I found her haiku very weak, being little more than random images thrown together, seemingly out of desperation.

Isabella Strachan is obviously an accomplished poet. I would have liked to see her stretch herself more than she has done so in this book and move away from nature poetry. Her images can be striking, but I feel they are wasted here. UNDER THE SUN is a nice collection but let's see what else she can throw our way.

reviewer: Fionna Doney Simmonds.