I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I’m often reluctant to write reviews, and yet I know how important they are to poets and publishers (in which categories I include myself). The reluctance springs, I think, from the different purposes the reader has for approaching a particular book or poem. As an ordinary reader of poetry, I read it simply for pleasure. My reactions are emotional – I like it, I loathe it, I don’t understand it, or I want to bear the poet’s children – that kind of spectrum. As a reviewer, I read it in order to tell others what I think of it, so I have to know what I think of it, and that involves intellect, judgement, comparison, mensuration, and the more analytical cognates of thought. It’s a plain fact that for the last 40 years that side of my brain has been concerned with science, the mathematical, physical, biological and chemical aspects of our natural environment. Analysing and reporting on words and word patterns doesn’t feel natural to me, and I lack most of the skills and techniques necessary to do it well.
So treat this as a mention, not a proper review. Last year several bloggers mentioned Gérard Rudolf’s Orphaned Latitudes, from Red Squirrel Press. Well, now I’ve read it, and I can see what the fuss was about. I connected with it immediately, and it gripped me until I finished it this morning. Gérard is from South Africa, and many of the pieces?/poems in related to his growing up in that country. What I know of it (apart from the botany and the geology) is mostly what I’ve learned from newsreels, but now I have a better understanding from the inside, of what it’s like to experience life there. It’s stunning. Go read!