An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
Fighting Cock Press
45 Middlethorpe Drive
YO24 1NA
ISBN 0 906744 22 9

Fighting Cock Press
ISBN 0 906744 28 8

Visit the website of Fighting Cock Press read a poem by the author on the Aabye's Baby Archive

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Mabel Ferrett's skill with words is evident in the opening poem ARUM MACULATUM which ends:

	your Christmas-clustered
	bright-red berries
	and yet, with honey,
	your acrid roots
	wholly medicinal.
She is the wise woman who knows there are two sides to everything, and many of these poems explore the double-faceted nature of existence.

Adept at writing free verse, she can also command rhyming verse without letting the rhythm suffer and never struggles to find the right word. Many poems are steeped in history and place. At PONTEFRACT CASTLE AND RICHARD II she watches a play enacted in the castle grounds:

	But, as the play progressed, I questioned how
	on the spot where Richard died, we could enjoy
	such eating of the "bread of banishment"
	and malfeasance of the murder of a king.

	So language makes us traitors — unawares.
Though she tells a lot, and sometimes her own opinion is thrust on the reader, for the most part she teases out the meaning, as in one of my favourite poems CHEQUER-BOARD:
	Sleep caught her by surprise, as though at play.
	With garden scents
	of rose and mignonette and gillyflower
	a drugged content
	deceived her senses, led her mind astray.

		And through her sleep she still could hear the drone
	of honeyed bees,

	...	hundreds of miles away, where no birds sang,
	battered by crash of missile, whine of shell,
	on blackened sand
	in grotesque attitudes the young men lay.
Her versatility of style comes across in a poem like FROM A KITCHEN DOORWAY. Though seemingly just a poem in free verse it could almost be a series of haiku, capturing as it does a moment in time.

The title poem invites the reader to think about life —

	We seek! - but, what to find
	in the ridges of hills where the sheep
	tread minutes paths, and deep
	are the falls and the guillies that cut
	the coigns of the crag's grey cheek?


	ever to beat in vain
	on imaginary gates, through the mist
	time-driven, we must go.
The last poem in the book, ACCEPTANCE, has the strong opening line
	The future is foreign to all before.
but I prefer to end by recalling lines from VERY OLD LADY
	... so time goes by
	and I sits and thinks
	and I thinks and sits
	and I is

reviewer: Mandy Smith.

An inescapable sense of colloquy pervades the tightly protective narrative of Mabel Ferrett's poets progress through the landscape of the murky mills and hard-lined hills of her area of Yorkshire's West Riding.

Like the unlucky founder, Joan Lee, I too lived in Green Lane, West Vale, nr Elland, an environ more noted for its muck than its brass. That it spawned poetry at all is to be admired, that it has grown and survived as it has is to be applauded. The survival of The Pennine Poets, born forty years ago in Elland Library, is a fitting testament to the tenacity and sheer hard work of its founders and subsequent followers.

SPIRIT & EMOTION traces the history of The Pennine Poets through the last forty years. It is a fine anecdotal well documented path along which we meet the collection of writers who have nurtured and steered the group from initial faltering steps to its current solid professional base; from its first hand-duplicated pamphlets to a fully fledged publishing house, The Fighting Cock Press now based in York.. Throughout its journey it has tried, successfully, to stick to Joan Lee's initial aim,

to present rarity and contrast.
It is however in the wide-ranging anthology in the latter section of the book that we discover the strength of work that represents the fighting cocks that are the Pennine Poets themselves., forty-five of which are featured here. Too many to individually discuss, I have chosen those voices that have made the journey worthwhile.

In chronological order (as printed)


		we are hemmed
	With resounding stone, cracked cement,
		patched ceilings with raw paint.
	I see you in the swimming light,
	You cleaving, embracing your element,
	Perfect, relaxed, rhythmical,

	Juggling with water.
	And you walk, gracefully on chilly dampness

	And civilian now, banal,
	We towel, tidy, wrap ourselves
	Against the wet, alienating nightfall.
a poem, which for me has a link with Lesley Quale's THE FRAGILE VISITOR who
	...will never see
	Spring falter after the Winter fast
	or summer rust on a black bough
	her time will remain unfathomable
	as a lark's egg on the ploughed earth.
	She is the fragile visitor,
	fed with love, nested,
	sheltered from breaking currents,
	shaped by sweeter waters,
 	lulled to sleep on the soft breath of air.
Less soft are the liberating gales in Jean Barker's FLIGHT OF THE BIN BAGS
	Liberated by gales
	from under the bins
	we fly tumbling
	flapslapping over cyclists.

	We move in unison
	over City streets
	threatening becoming
	an alien force.
	Tomorrow early
	black flags of anarchy
	will flutter from branches
	challenging all things.
The tale of Cinderella is re-spun effortlessly by COLIN SPEAKMAN
	Ah, he reminds her (almost every day)
	were it not for him and that remarkable slipper
	she would still be whining her life away
	slopping out sculleries for unlovely sisters.

	And she, fatter now of late, frequently remarks
	what a perfect egoist he has always been,
	knowing his exploits in the hypocritical dark
	with a hundred pretty mockers of the Queen.
			(and) longs for
	old, shabby freedoms
In so much of this poetry, rooted firmly in the pastoral Yorkshire landscape forged by Sylvia Plath's husband, we see the struggle between man and nature unfold, and no-where so delicately as in Margaret Speak's ASH STICK, where mans reliance on nature is complete;
	My arm in plaster to the elbow
	A greenstick fracture, they called it
	and he fractured a greenstick
	to help me along.
	He silent took my knife
	and skinned the stick
	curling the peel thinly
	showing its pearly flesh.
	... laid its length
	along the mantelshelf to dry.
	I remembered it
	when my plaster sliced through
	peeled back, my arm bone-thin
	suet white, soon thickened
	and tanned to the colour
	of the ash stick, smoked and oiled
	polished by his handhold.
	I hand the stick into his hand
	more knotted than the ash.
	Time to walk the green lane
	before dinner.
Ian M Emberson's sharply observed poem, a modern fable, IN AN OPPRESSED COUNTRY( accompanied by a most accomplished drawing) deals succinctly with a universal theme.
	In an oppressed country
	a young poet wrote beautiful verses,
	until his girl friend — who was a revolutionary
	"Aren't you ashamed to be scribbling poetry
	while the peasant children starve?"
	so he stopped writing beautiful verses
	— and the peasant children went on starving
Gerald England unleashes contemporary minotaurs in his travelogue across the moors, cleverly linking Hindley and Shipman in, HYDE. AUGUST 1st 2003
	The town is tainted by murder.
	We look out over Hattersley,
	once the home of  Myra and Ian,
	their house demolished but still
	something remains in the air.
	and the ghost of Shipman
	can be seen driving down Joel Lane.
	and talk at the bus stop
	is never only about the weather
The potential harshness of the landscape is evoked splendidly by Andrew Boobier in GURLING TROUGH; YORKSHIRE DALES.
	The dry riverbed haunts the sky.

	The rim is entirely treeless.

	Weight of stone outshifts light
	in the gorge,
			cons dissolve
	Footsteps in the shadows:
	At the top of the hill we build cairns
	to the gods of chance,
	make wishes and move on.
and perhaps the best comes last.

One of the steadily emergent voices of contemporary British poetry is the un-wavering, sharply analytic Pat Borthwick, whose CALF ONE-HOUR deals firmly with major issues in a gentle but uncompromising poem about re-generation and birth. Here life inhabits the landscape, we feel its pulse:

	The great black oak
	obliterates tonight’s weave of stars
	Our senses tune
	between slubs of dusk
	where moon threads its way
	like falling rain
	to pool his new world.

	He sparkles in his wet-suit
	stunned by this first dive
	to a deeper, wider place
	where she stands monumental,
	vaster than womb.
	a rhythmic rocking
	working to his blood-pulse,
	pulse of moon, grass roots, oak,
	until on tressle-legs
	he reaches out and she becomes all udder,

	All night
	they practise softly
	their umbilical calls.
SPIRIT & EMOTION then is a tribute to its author and a fitting testament to the progress of the Pennine Poets. It is a fascinating and engaging account of their journey thus far as well as an interesting anthology of its associated contributing poets.

reviewer: John Cartmel-Crossley.