Excellent Reviews of Enchantment
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By Nisha Obano in Poetry Review, 101: 2, Summer 2001
‘Morley’s poetry evokes with enormous skill and sensitivity the many ways in which ecological changes affect our economic and social lives…Enchantment is a profound and tender work which confirms Morley’s place at the helm of British poetry today’.
By Julia Bird in Magma, Vol, 50, Summer 2010
‘David Morley[‘s]…inheritance and ongoing research has given him access to stories, histories and language which are unfamiliar to most of his non-Romani readers and, in writing them up for us, he offers us a genuine thrill of discovery. Too many times, I’ve seen poets with Three Book Gravitas turn for the first time to the Greek myths in order to sub out their current disquiets to those overstretched archetypes. Sometimes, I don’t want another retelling of Diana and Actaeon, I’d rather read for the first time about The Hedgehurst. He’s half human, half hedgehog, and he’s a powerful figure…
I judder awake as jays bounce
and strut about my body.
I rise, I shout, and they scatter.
They jump screaming into the sky.
It is time to call everything to life
for I am king of this and this is my kingdom.
…with much to tell us about self-determination and statecraft. His spines prick us and demand our attention.
…Morley has a professional stake in the outdoors; his background is in ecology and naturalism. His nature poems read like diagrams of food chains and water cycles; no on element in the web of life has precedence over another. In ‘Fresh Water’, humans, horses, midges and salmon are equally important, yet all of them are subject to a greater power – ‘the energy system / cindering softly under us, slow-cooking the marshlands.’
Whether giving a representation of Romani culture, or weighing up the balance between the natural and the human world, Morley’s lyric “I” is dropped well back. It does not crash about in the undergrowth, drawing attention to itself. Instead, he finds fresh alternate voices and personas to articulate his concerns. The subject of ‘The Lucy Poem’ is – while tipping her hat to Wordsworth’s Lucy-muse – the 3 million-plus-year-old Australopithecus afarensis, whose fossilised remains were found in Ethiopia in the 1970s. Imagining Lucy’s search for water is a way for s to talk about climate change in a way that privileges sensory experience above manipulable stats and science-lite…
When the waterhole went
wolves ran with their thirsts
higher than fur could manage:
they loped the dry courses
to their source, lapping parched
stone where water buried its song
…its persuasive effects unavoidable.
Morley’s language is gorgeous, slubby and dense, demanding a slow-paced reading and recitation. ‘Chorus’ is a patterned, refrain-rich poem for a newborn – ‘The heron hangs its head before hurling down its guillotine. / The tern twists on tines of two sprung wings. The dawn is the chorus’ – which is as much a lullaby as a powerful cradle spell. His tales are told strongly enough to ‘draw readers into a lit circle’ even if the closest they get to a Gypsy campfire is a chalet at Centre Parcs. If I had been anywhere near the shortlisting panels for last year’s poetry prizes, I would have nudged this collection and its newly delivered worlds to the top of the pile.’