Established 2003. Now incorporating The Sudbury Hill Harrow and Wherever End Times

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Review: Magpie's Nest by Clare Starling

Clare Starling

The first thing to say is that this is no eclectic bundle of poems about this, that or the other. The 27 poems in this hefty pamphlet could almost be presented as one epic poem in 27 numbered parts. They are all poetic emanations from the maelstrom of events and emotions surrounding family life in the light of the wonders, adventures and sometime challenges of living with an autistic child. 

You may find yourself returning to this chapbook many times, and depending on your mood, you might laugh at Pokémon in the Cemetery or sympathise with the passerby carrying a bunch of flowers.

At the Soyer Tomb
Grade II Listed by English Heritage
You evolved your Woobat
into a Swoobat

There are many humorous touches but it's never just one thing and it's never prosaic, every poem is heightened with sensual evocation, metaphor and other tricks of the poetic trade, but never losing a pleasing lightness of touch. This is poetry with a purpose but it's in no way perfunctory. Each poem seems to have blossomed up completely out of the blue. At another time, you might dip into a Hampstead pond, as in Effortful Swimming.

You dropped into the cold
eager as a dog

There are poems with a complex structure, such as the side-by-side feelings of "In the Dark" or the dense imagery and oddness of "Escape Room". There's frustration in "Waiting for CAMHS" and relief of a sort in "On the Threshold". There is strangeness in plenty throughout.

But the last of the feelings I would like to mention, from the myriad I could choose from if time allowed, is one I'm not sure how to describe. It comes in the poem that has its name in the second line of the last stanza.

you were so proud of me
you called me The Bee Saver
I think it was the honour of my life

"Magpie's Nest" (Wildfire Words, 2023) by Clare Starling is available for pre-order post-free within the U.K. and with reduced postage to addresses overseas.

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