An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
Oversteps Books
Froude Road
South Devon
ISBN 0 9541376 6 3

Lapwing Publications
c/o 1 Ballysillan Drive
BT14 8HQ
ISBN 1 905425 32 5
5.95 [12]

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This collection, published by Oversteps, contains new poetry by Will Daunt together with some from two previous collections published by the late Grendon House.

Daunt continues to be fascinated by the impact of time. He notes his impressions of austere landscapes, abandoned villages and charts change. Glimpsing down the titles of RUNNING OUT OF ENGLAND, England seems to be still very much there: the south west: Exmoor, the Mendips, and further north: a large number are devoted to Lancashire, Cumbria, Eigg and more. Lurking in between are signs of trips abroad...Giotto, Roscoff, Ijesselmeer, Brussels, Aqbal... and especially northern Europe. Many an invitation to a journey.

Isolated roads and villages and valleys abound. In nearly all of them, there is an economy of language that mirrors both the harsh landscapes and the personal tragedies. LOST ONE is a bleak moving sequence on a still birth, where the accumulation of technical words from the freeze-frame, scanner, disconnecting, plug, of the first two poems contrast with the bleakness of the aftermath

	nothing beyond the empty branch, 
	and a child without a brother,
	the silence.
Daunt is at home with many different verse forms and is a remarkable wordsmith; he enjoys using all sorts of geographical and botanical terms. In A LANCASHIRE GLEN, for example, we get clough, mulch, hogweed, dogmire, lee; he plays on our expectations:
	as dark as they numb.
The haunting verbs wrung, pebbled, buried, cut loose, routed, undrowned, hurls, bring home the impression of a saved wilderness
	unfound by the map-gang.
Metaphors of landscape abound:
		is the moor
	you're allowing
	to ooze through your mind.
ABOVE AN ICE FJORD draws a stark contrast between today and a way of life that is past, this time in Greenland. Close to home, I particularly liked ORMSKIRK BORDERS for the way it captures the past of this rural market town and just hints at the present encroachment of the distant city.
	And on a rise
	of roots and moss, 
	the quarry ends, 
	well overrun.
	A sandstone town
	was unearthed here, 
	its paths disperse
	towards elsewhere.
	Some underpin
	an upland arc,
	where fields succeed
	or towns might be, 
	and others merge
	where railways died, 
	on mounds that lie
	like boundaries. 
	Behind all this 
	goes Lancashire,
	The farms run down
	the walls are wide, 
	and where it lay
	it ends, and there
	where sunsets rise
	the city flares.

reviewer: Jacqueline Karp.

This collection gives bleakness and alienation a rhythmic thrust that leaves a reader more breathless than bereft. Good writing transmits energy from its creator to the page; and Mr Daunt is a dynamo. Even in the set of longish-lined iambic poems, which begin the book, he persuades us the lines are short. They rattle along, almost counterpoint to their content from MOTHER BESIDE HERSELF:

	could name you the husbands she'd sooner have stunned,
	but opted for one who left no turn unstoned;

	threw dear things to chance, took the cheap on the chin
	living hand-to-purse days, in the scrabble for change;

	worked acres of hours her unchosen field
	and used them to guess how she'd once planned to feel;
The majority of pieces communicate an edgy discontent. EASTERN GATE, a theme with variations, is one of four such poems; each finely crafted. I quote the first two stanzas:
	This was the place where your home had a heart
	and you are displayed on its albums and walls.
	Each year that you lived here it felt more apart.

	A playpen of hills, drew your primary chart
	that boundary of bridleways, outcrops and falls
	encircled the place where your home had a heart.
Throughout the collection there is palpable immediacy and nowhere is it more apparent than in SPEAK TO ME (a monological piece, as the title suggests) a perfect example of that edgy style:
	and I'm here on my mobile, I've
	switched it on now, and it means I'm
	able and itching to speak.  I'm
	stuck on some beach, weather's naff. I've
	let the rest walk to the sea.  Yes, I'd

	breaking up?  Sounds good to me.
The continuous use of the self-obsessed 'I' creates a tension between the speaker and the listener (as it does between the poem and the reader). And that hiatus, in the final line of the quote, speaks volumes.

It is perhaps noticeable (when reading one poem after another) that there is a tendency to employ clusters of up-front alliteration; this is not too much of a problem when mindful of Mr Daunt's clear, intelligent, and unique voice.

reviewer: Michael Bangerter.