Saturday, 28 March 2009

A Review: Stroking The Air

I want to write something about a free book I was sent by Bluechrome Books, one of their giveaways as part of Free Book Fridays on The Blue Blog. The deal is that in exchange for a free book, the recipient writes a short review…

So, for the past two weeks I’ve been dipping into Eileen Carney Hulme’s debut poetry collection, Stroking The Air.

At first glance I felt it might be a rose-tinted collection with its optimisms and breathless romance; a romance that at times feels stereotypical with its rose petals, rainbow kisses and shooting stars.

Reading deeper into this collection, I realised that the collection explores more complex emotional states, and delves into what happens when romance or the illusion of romance, or love itself has gone, and we are left with loss, anger, bitterness, or yearning. Perhaps captured in lines like ‘the salt-sea scars / of your tangled existence’.

Many poems explore the transience of love, particular in ‘The Man with the Plan’ and other poems which allude to a traveller/tinker passing through a seaside town. The following poem, Loss, seems to capture this sense of transience and loss.


The path seemed longer
then before –
the years had gathered
it up
moved it.

I scrambled over rocks
that had forgotten
the lightness
of my touch

and where
once upon a time
you would have been waiting

restless as the wind
that carried us beyond forever

there is only grey
swallowing the day.

Many of these are quite beautiful. ‘Between’, explores the relationship between Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, without explicitly saying who the couple is in the poem. It explores facts/fictions of their relationship, how:
Vultures scavenged for the meat,
still they scrap over the bones

There is a wonderful poem about homeless people in a creative writing class: ‘pavement souls/ graze on poetic grassland /and I pick up the crumbs.’

And the poems I was most drawn to, relate to family and a past life/past lives: ‘Work in Progress’, hints at a life before the romance, a flat in Glasgow where ‘I was constantly sheltering /under an umbrella, black’; In ‘Childhood rituals’ an Uncle is ‘resting his lungs from long hours down the pit’; and there are poignant poems about the poet’s relationships with her parents, particularly when they were old/ ill.

I feel, perhaps, this is a collection about how romance and love can take distract us from the harder realities of life, by allowing us to be swept along by optimism, hope and awe. But, perhaps also Stroking The Air reflects on a lost past, tinged with loss and struggle, and this is why the poet treasures now, and takes comfort from immersing her spiritual connection with people and the land.


Michelle said...

A thoughtful, considered review.

Megan said...

Sounds like a lovely collection - thank you Annie

Anonymous said...

sounds nice collection I have some poety written with feeling on my blog
plus short stories. I would appreciate any advice available