has been said and quoted too often for me to give any credence to the
statement that 'Poetry is the new rock 'n' roll'. It seems to me that far
from being the new rock 'n' roll many of the of the poetry books that happily
rests on my lap are in fact the new ornithology. Birds, Birds, Birds. I am
sure that there must be lurking somewhere the new poetry guide for twitchers
and their quest (Info to the editor please.) (Just keep it away from me.). In
the words of the ancient Bob Segar 'I like that good old rock 'n' roll', and
just for the record I am totally absorbed with the new as well.
So here we have the infamous and prestigious Bloodaxe Books with one of their
latest offerings. The Secret is also a Poetry Book Society
Recommendation, and I opened it with all the anticipation that I greet a new
work - which is pretty high. However, not being familiar with Brigley's work,
my heart sank with the words taken from a translation of The Mabingdon:
I will not
kill you, but I will do what is worse: I will let you go
in the form
of a bird.
Not again I thought. And as is so often the case in what I read, the need to
translate from the Welsh to aid accessibility of the modern or post modern
reader. I was feeling grumpy and had not read a poem yet.
And then my heart lifted with the first poem '0 My Own Pleasure'.
Brigley begins the work with a quote from Michel Foucault. And the poem
lifted me and carried me to a situation so removed from ornithology and into
the world that I think I identify with.
As it says in the preface to The Secret - and I would
agree, the collection emerges from silence and the silence. It is also the
poetry of the margins. Some of the poems reflect the poets own background -
hence the Welsh introduction.
But the book can roughly be divided into three parts. The first 'The Lesser
Secrets' confronts the secrets and symbols of the Tarot pack and does an
excellent job in introducing the reader to a modernised view of what the
symbols and secrets may contain.
Part two or 'The Greater Secrets' takes the reader beyond the western
approach to secrets and magic to the unknown - to this reviewer - making use
of the twenty day cycle of the Aztec calendar. Every day of the month has a
corresponding symbol such as a lizard, snake or bird.
The final section, 'The Curse of the Long Legged Bird', combines a mixture of
Mexican mythologies and Western fairy stories or almost meta-narratives.
Thankfully there is a glossary of terms to help the uninitiated in the
mystical ways Brigley so easily moves between.
So ignore my initial sceptical snide comments. Read the book. This is a brave
collection that moves between theology to myth, to folklore to modern life
and I loved it. Well done Bloodaxe Books. Well done Zoe Brigley.
© Alan West 2008