I came across White Thorns by Brian Lewis quite by chance. Having just started this poetry blog, obviously review materials are thin on the ground at the moment (take that as a hint, if you like!), so I employed a random selection tool, as is my wont, that lead me to Gordian Projects and ultimately, White Thorns.
Call it synchronicity, serendipity or whatever, on receiving it, the first thing I noticed was that Gordian Projects was based in Sheffield in the same postal area that my last book – Tales from the Urban Prairie, a book about the notorious Kelvin Flats – was set.
Cool. Bodes well.
Then, I noted that I was very much aware of the author having spent a fair chunk of my last pay packet on books from his ‘Longbarrow Press’ imprint and reviewing another of them – Pete Green’s glorious Sheffield Almanac – on this very site, not two weeks ago.
Sheffield, I think, is calling me home…
But back to the matter in hand.
White Thornes is an exploration of The Isle of Axholme, an area of Lincolnshire and parts of South Yorkshire that made up the former West Riding of Lindsey. Having lived and Schooled in the Lindsey area (thirty minutes from the start and end of the walked route), this is very familiar territory. The exploration takes the form of a sequence of sixty eight tankas culled from a series of walks around its boundaries.
Each tanka describes an aspect of the landscape, it’s history or denizens, as a staccato cryptogram. Clipped sentences. Condensed information.
No mere description, each stanza provides clues as a kind of treasure map. Some pastoral and peaceful; some describing technology and its effects on the land – wind turbines and biomass fuel plants feature heavily. For example:
White thorns, spinning sky,
each horizontal axis
sings the trinity.
One zenith, then another,
the crowns abide in the air.
Some mythologise village life; others are exasperated at the changes wrought by progress. On searching for the promised the treasure and wealth, however, we realise that it is not gold or jewels, but the landscape itself in all its joys and imperfections.
The cumulative effect of these sixty eight brittle and robust tankas is to provide a metanarrative that places you at the heart of a fractured but curiously cohesive homestate. The land is yours, just as much as you belong to the land. A marriage then, that you recognise through it’s intimate revelations.
Review by WV
Each hand-stitched and stamped, White Thorns by Brian Lewis is available from Gordian Projects for £5.00 + 90p P&P (UK)