For 2020, the StAnza Blog is hosting DURA – the Dundee University Review of the Arts – who as reviewers in virtual residence on the StAnza Blog will post excerpts from their selection of reviews of titles by poets on the StAnza 2020 programme, including this one in today’s blog. The full review can be read on their website at https://dura-dundee.org.uk/category/poets-stanza-2019-reviews/. Written by staff and students, DURA is keen to promote the diversity of artists and art forms in the UK context, supporting especially (albeit non-exclusively) independent cinema outlets, exhibitions, theatre, film and publishing.
Michael Longley, Angel Hill, reviewed by Paula Lyttle
Memory and loss are Angel Hill’s central preoccupations, Longley’s nature imagery is not only indicative of the passage of time, or aging, but also recalls the natural cycles of death and life. His “larks nests”, “chestnuts and acorns”, “pale February catkins too late for orchids now … too soon for sloes/ Or elderberries” secure these moments to a point in the seasonal cycle which, given a few months or a year, will be new again, refreshed and vital. Time is most evident in the poems that capture Longley’s marriage. In “Fifty Years”, Longley, with a pleasing simplicity, writes of their life together, walks taken “again and again”, season after season “for fifty years, man and wife, voices low, / Counting oystercatchers and sanderlings”. And rather heart-warmingly, his continued passion for his wife, Edna, in “Monarch” is framed within time and nature:
If I were inside you now
I would stay there for ages
Until the last migrating
Monarch butterfly had left.
Angel Hill is an intimate and emotional journey through not only the physical landscapes that inspire Longley but the moments, small and large, that have influenced his life: the feathers and letters and tragedies that have taken seed in his ‘soul-landscape’ that have bloomed year after year, propagating love and pain and inspiration. I am very glad to have shared his invitation to walk with him, and you will be too.