I’ve been following local Bristol poetry group The Spoke since I reconnected with my former school friend and current Spoke member Lizzie Parker a few years ago. I’ve always read poetry but it’s never been a major part of my reading diet, so it’s been a learning curve for me to experience more of this most flexible of media. At the start of May, Lizzie and fellow Spoke member Claire Williamson published new collections with Seren, an independent publisher based in Wales. I went to their book launch at Waterstones in Bristol and was pleased to see such a big crowd for poetry. It’s reassuring.
Now I have read both their books I’d like to share my thoughts.
Visiting the Minotaur
by Claire Williamson
My previous experience of Claire’s poetry had largely been with her poems that deal frankly with real life’s ups and downs, so it was interesting to discover her wider range in this collection. As the title suggests, she uses the metaphor of the mythical minotaur and his maze throughout. She also has a few pieces that are responses to specific works of art. And there’s a poem dedicated to Laika, which can’t help but endear Claire to me.
There’s a variety of poetry styles as well as subjects, which I don’t have the poetry vocabulary to name all of, but they include a rondel and a sonnet. Most importantly, they are all executed elegantly.
In Her Shambles
by Elizabeth Parker
Lizzie has been publishing in various journals and periodicals for a few years now, and I went to the launch of her poetry pamphlet Antinopolis back in 2016, but this is her first full book of poetry. As with Claire, this book allows her to show her range more fully. Where before I had experienced Lizzie’s poetry about nature and Shakespeare, here she also ventures into the personal – from the simple pleasures of cooking, to past heartbreak.
In this collection her primary metaphor is water. In one poem she voices the sea licking at a beach. In another, the members of a family are each represented by their own river. There’s the simple pleasure of a boat ride in Bristol and there’s the darkly sensual imagery of a riverbank. There’s also some clever wordplay about the act of writing itself, a self-acknowledgment of the writer’s impulse to turn all of her life into art.
These are great books and hopefully both Lizzie and Claire will publish more material soon.