May 03, 2010

'The Only Thing to Had on Earth / Is Love': Discovering Lesley Saunders

No DovesThe poet Lesley Saunders creates surprising, inventive poems-as-machines in No Doves, published by the beguiling Mulfran Press. To quote Mulfran's very friendly website, 'Metamorphic rather than anthropomorphic, these poems depict the ‘creatureliness’ of all existence: how distinctions between the non-human and human worlds dissolve as you look at them — rather like ‘the act / of walking through walls’. Yet the book as a whole is really a meditation on the notion that ‘the only thing to be had on earth / is love, leafless, wintering’'. That's as inviting a summary as any reader needed. I'm in.

She has three published collections before No Doves -The Dark Larder (Corridor Press, 1997); with Jane Draycott and Peter Hay, Christina the Astonishing (Two Rivers Press, 1998); and Her Leafy Eye (Two Rivers Press, 2009), a collaboration with artist Geoff Carr.  Dark Larder’s title poem won first prize in the George MacBeth poetry competition and Christina was featured on BBC Radio 4’s ‘A Good Read’. Her Leafy Eye was inspired by Rousham Gardens in Oxfordshire, landscaped in the 1730s by William Kent.

No Doves is a quite dazzling collection and I'm as surprised (as I usually am) that it isn't - yet? - considered for poetry prizes. She shares with fine poets like Jane Draycott and Charles Tomlinson an incredibly clear-eyed perception in language which is as musical as it is exact. Writing of 'Ice' she observes: This is the white gold of the poles, the water that rings / like metal having first mastered the stillness of crystals, / and this the discipline of the slow freeze, whose splinters / leave no trace of travel through the muscle of the heart...'. Lesley Saunders is a very exciting and interesting writer who deserves your closer attention.

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