By sheer coincidence, when Geraldine Green’s book arrived for review I was reading another volume of poems bearing exactly the same title by the Welsh poet John Tripp. Tripp’s book, which was published by Poetry Wales Press in 1984, explores change in a largely urban setting whereas Green’s book is a celebration of her native Cumbria couched in a rural setting. Both poets share the same gift of sharp observation followed by close reflection triggered by their own experience of passing through familiar landscapes.
A quotation from Wendell Berry and another one from Green’s late uncle, both of which are uplifting and affirmative, open and close this collection of 45 poems, prose poems and poetic prose. The cover art, designed by Ronnie Goodyer, is a neat depiction of the “door of cool cerulean blue” that features in the opening poem.
Green describes her book as being “a love letter to Cumbria” and most of the poems to be found in this collection are rooted and grounded in the south and west of the county. Green is very much a poet of place. Almost a quarter of the titles contain place names which help the reader to place each poem in context. In ‘Fishing on the outgoing tide’ a glut of place-names make up almost an entire stanza and there is music in each name:
Swing your gaze around:
Ingleborough, Piel Island,
Black Combe, Scafells
Coniston Old Man
Dow Crag, Red Screes,
Kidsty Pike, Froswick,
Ill Bell, the Howgills.
Green is a poet of wide open spaces. Her poems are populated with stones, fossils, ammonites, ferns, “whorled worlds” that are “ready to take flight”, frosted teasels, sea asters and fozzy bogs. More birds fly through these pages than I have ever counted before.
All the senses are employed here: we listen to water, see a mother-of-pearl sky, hear a curlew, smell honeysuckle, dog roses and meadowsweet. Wherever she is, Green catches the moment as well as the movement, not just of birds in flight, but of tides and seasons, the ebb and flow of our lives. Green moulds her persona into the “skyscape and landscape” until she is “the swallow-scythed air of summer”, “the eider duck’s astonished aww”.
There are some arresting images too: “Black Combe’s bulk is cotton-woolled in kettle-steam cloud,” there are frogs with “stretched balletic legs”, and there is the Hopkins-like “wide-winged verses of song” that are “wing-spread low-tide flit-flight light-tilted / blown along froth”.
Poems such as ‘Lake Bank, Coniston Water,’ ‘I am no longer myself on these sands’ and ‘Moth, Eycott Hill’ are full of beauty. Here, where she completely absorbs herself in her subject-matter, we see Green at her very best.
These closing lines from ‘Moth, Eycott Hill’ will give readers a flavour of some of the delights to be found in this collection:
Saturday September 29th-Sunday 30th, 10.30am-4.30pm -“Write on the Shore” at Cumbria Wildlife Trust’sSouth Walney Nature Reserve, another fantastic day out at this wonderful nature reserve. £35 if you come for Saturday only, incl. refreshments. Please bring your own lunch windproof/waterproof clothing and footwear. Notebook, pen, camera and binocs, too! Residential cost in No. 2 Coastguard Cottages is: £25 single room; £30 sharing a twin bedded room, plus £35 for Saturday's workshop. Breakfast, lunch and evening meals will be a 'Jacob's Join' (apart from own lunch on Saturday). The residential and workshop finishes after breakfast on Sunday morning. You are, however, most welcome to join me for another wander around the reserve. Cattle on the reserve are docile and friendly, the bull's name (I've learned) is Jasper. There are three single rooms and one twin bedded. You may also park your camper van at the Reserve's car park, or pitch a tent in the large cottage garden - booking essential, places limited.
It promises to be a lovely day, watching migratory birds heading to the reserve to overwinter, already curlews are arriving. We can seal watch at the afternoon's high tide (will check tide times). Fungi and toadstools, including large parasols, will be taking over from summer plants such as viper's bugloss and yellow horned poppies. Please email me at: geraldinegreen[dot]poetry[one[atgmail[dot]com
Enjoying a beach comb, Merlin's Cave, Tintagel beach Cornwall
photo by Geoff Green 2007
her ‘love letter to Cumbria’, Geraldine Green weaves together strands of
auto-biography, living depictions both of landscape and of inward journeying,
moments of revelation always grounded in the actual and the observed, and
brings all these qualities together in one sweeping compass to create a volume
rich in sensory and meditative experience.We hear the shining voices of earth, air, fire and water.This is writing that re-interprets modern
pastoral, elemental and contemporary in all its facets.Using language that is nuanced and open
enables this poet to catch, as if on the wing, glimpse after heart-glad glimpse
of her part of this beautiful vulnerable planet." - Penelope
Stone Renga What do I know of stones?
Flat, mud-grey ones
on Foulney Island. Layer upon layer
heaped up for feet to scramble and
What do I know of stones?
Those at Aldingham, dark grey
round as a bird’s egg
shot through with milky quartz
in circles and crosses that lie
warm and smooth in my palm.
What do I know of stones?
Limestone dragons on Birkrigg
dinosaur-shapes glint white
fissures on ancient pavements.
What do I know of stones, their secret
of fossils: ammonites, ferns, feathers
spiralled, whorled worlds imprinted
readyto take flight
when their old stone-bodies
crack open. Delighted to have this poem inStone Rengaan anthology written, produced and birthed by a love of stones, ed. Alan Berecka and Tom Murphy, Tale Feathers Press, Santa Fe, New Mexico
south Walney nature reserve (photo by Geraldine Green copyright) "Geraldine Green’s poems are alert to landscape, seasons, rootedness
that draws from deep aquifers of language, change that flits like cloud shadows
across the page. Some seemed light as thistle heads but proved enduringly
strong, rich with seed. As I read, I almost expected goldfinches to feed
alongside me with their otherworldly attentiveness. But that attentiveness was
Burns Beck Moss 16.9.2017 (photo by Geraldine Green copyright)
I recall our walk in Burns Beck Moss,
the softness of ground,
the softness of feet, the hush of bodies, the quiet chat and the moss
cushioning us, our feet, our chat, our bodies, our thoughts, the frogs’
stretched balletic legs, their crouched sanctuary among the sphagnum, speeding
away from boots and trainers, our feet on cushioned silence, crushing their
It is indeed a love letter to Cumbria - like walking through its parts with a lyrical David Attenborough - nothing gets missed, all the history, all the beauty, all the unpredictable wonder of it - from the way the waves lap on Coniston to the history in the old stones on Foulney Island, its minutiae and its grandeur. You want to wander with Geraldine and see with her eyes, her real eyes and her mind's eye. Forget the tourist information guides - if you want to know what the lakes and fells are all about read this.
Looking forward to reading from Passing Through, to be published in 2018 by Indigo Dreams at a venue near you!
Here's and extract from my introduction to Salt Road on the Poems & Poetics website by Jerome Rothenberg
me, reading in nature, Eycott Hill, 22.7.2017, on the 'Write in Nature' outdoor creative writing workshop I led for Cumbria Wildlife Trust, photo by Jane Moss-Luffram (copyright)
"I .... am always glad to touch the living rock again and dip my hand in the high mountain sky"
Poems in my new collection Passing Through Indigo Dreams Pubs. 2018 have appeared in the following anthologies and publications:
this collection have been accepted for publication or have appeared in: Stone
Renga, Tail Feathers Press,
Santa Fe, NM in 2017;
accepted for Waymaking, ed. Helen Mort (due to be published in 2018);
Qualia, ed. Roselle Angwin; My Dear Watson, ed. Rebecca Bilkau; The Bees Knees,
ed. Rebecca Bilkau, Beautiful Dragons Press; ‘Curlew Calling’ Numenious Press, ed. Karen Lloyd; The
Raspberry and the Rowan, Cumbria Wildlife Trust; The City Zine, ed. Kathy
Smith, Ohio, USA; Haiku Calendar 2017 ed. Walter E. Harris III Long Island,
USA; SpeakEasy Magazine, Vol.1 ed. Nick
Pemberton; Watershed – an anthology in response to Storm Desmond, eds. Nick
Pemberton, Ann Wilson, Geraldine Green; Poetry Bay Long Island Quarterly USA; Bright Hill
Press 25th anniversary anthology, ed. Bertha Rogers, Catskills USA