Divided into four parts, the titles of which are poetry in themselves, Rachel Deering’s collection ‘Crown of Eggshell’ will leave you dizzy. I am acquainted with some of Rachel’s work, so I held on for dear life as I started the first poem in this magnificent collection, ‘The Return’, expecting to read potent and original images. However, the power of the imagery and the strong emotion conveyed throughout really did rock my soul, bear or donkey’s. I found this particularly resonant:
I returned, as though I had risen
clay-footed from the mud.
Old women sucked their teeth
at the sight of me;
those witches saw deep into the stain of glut of blood –
‘The Post-Trauma of Jupiter’ is an extended planetary metaphor for isolation and loneliness. I defy any reader not to be moved by its ending:
I orbit in toxic shame,
on the outskirts of this solar system.
I rotate in my gigantic pain,
encircled by many wordless moons.
Nature, sickness, death and occasionally survival are strong themes throughout. It is very difficult to write that one poem stands head and shoulders above another, the quality, the craft and the language are an example to all aspiring poets. That said, I can single out personal favourites, they may not be yours when you read this collection, but you will have your own: that at least is certain. I loved ‘Survival’ for its combination of the cosmic and the countryside, for example. Whether you read ‘Jellyfish’ as description or metaphor, it is a fine piece of writing.
‘Thoughts of Revenge’ is a mini-epic and the use of a minor mythological figure reminds me of Eliot in some ways. This is a compliment, though it may not be considered so in present-day academe. Ms. Deering’s collection’s use of animals and birds throughout is reminiscent of Hughes’. The fox, the hare, the bear and an entire aviary of birds, exotic and otherwise recur to excellent effect.
‘Do Come In’, I had read before. I had thought it quite brilliant in an earlier draft. However, the polish Rachel has given it, has made it shine still more.
‘Mind your step on the carcasses’
What a way to start a poem!
There are so many gems scattered on the path through these poems. Making complex ideas so easy to read is a true gift:
– with bee-sting words
and nettle promises,
you become a thorn.
The splendid, sinister and gothic conceit of Victorian Egg Collectors expresses the essential conflict between men and women:
maternally abandoned to,
these barbed wire men.
I have been in the clutches
of too many of these Victorian
‘Therapy’ almost made me want to try it. Flippant though that sounds, it is no back-handed compliment.
‘Confessional’ contains lines I wish I’d written myself. In the spirit of confession, I wish I’d written all of them.
And I do not know why
I have done half the things
I have, so why should you?
‘Crown of Eggshell’, as you will read, provides the title for each of the four sections. The poet makes of herself her own myth, opaque and ambiguous. Perhaps that’s why it provided the title for the collection and its four parts.
These poems stretch from the loamy earth, via the less common-place Breton and Gallic myths which take root in it, to the further reaches of Saturn, taking in death, emotion, love and the loss of it along the way. This poetry is beautiful; sometimes stark, sometimes succulent and always thought provoking. Intelligent, personal and universal all at the same time, as good a collection as I’ve ever read.