David Morley Enchantment (£9.95 Carcanet 2010, available from www.carcanet.co.uk)
David Morley is a master of the long line in poetry and Enchantment does not disappoint. Morley takes a line of poetry and pushes to its upmost length bordering it on short fiction, and there is a real sense that this poet likes to tell a good story, this is seen in the opening of the sequence The Library Beneath the Harp:
At thirteen years old I was skinny, as nimble as a wood squirrel only I
was black. I read books. My fellow Gypsies laughed at me for that.
They spat a Papusza. They chirred about Papusza. Your name means
doll. You are a reading doll!
Morley shows the skills of a great storyteller, the reader is hooked, the reader wants to know who Papusza is and Morley expands his sequence into Songs of Papusza:
At each stop we bartered my threnodies and melodies
for the ort of oats, lines for linen, for a mew of news.
In these villages, nothing happened but our music
until the Germans came. They murdered the menfolk.
Morley weaves in the terror and the history, a world is brought into startling focus in fluid couplets that take the reader along in their wake. Songs of Papusza is beautifully crafted poem, it lulls the reader into the world of myth, oral tradition and finally the horror of the death camps and the forgotten voices and tribes that perished under the final solution.
In stark contrast are the more personal poems of the collection dealing with death and birth, Fresh Water and Chorus. These poems though at different ends of the spectrum still give a vivid insight into the personal life of the poet, and the love and warmth he feels in a single moment that we can all understand:
The turnstones do precisely what is asked of them by name.
The wryneck and stonechats also. The dawn is the chorus.
There is real sense of occasion, of a single fleeting moment in all of Morley’s poems in this collection. There is a real sense of urgency as he tries to capture the voices before they fade, Morley does more, he captures the landscape as in Abandoned Christmas Tree Plantation:
We stretch our limbs into the wind and catch at birds.
Our tree rings are school bells that peal in December
bartering a bullfinch song for a goldfinch chime.
By dusk we are whispers and secret playtime rhymes.
Morley allows the environment around him to seep into his poems; you can smell, taste and feel the trees in this poem. This can be seen in Hedgehurst which deals with a creature, half hedgehog and half man, it is reminiscent of Caliban, a monster with a soul and Morley tells its tale. Morley is a master of capturing voice, of telling a story that keeps the reader’s attention, he comes from a bardic tradition, the epic poem, the great story before the roaring fire where he will tell you of Rom the Ringmaster, Demelza Do-It-All and Harlo the Watchman.
Enchantment is a collection that you will find yourself returning to time and time again to hear these voices and to read a poet at the height of his skills.