Injustices and small acts of defiance: There are Boats on the Orchard

December 6th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Alex Josephy notices more than a “simple elegy” for the vanishing orchards of Kent in her review of There are Boats on the Orchard by Maria C. McCarthy. Josephy writes: “The poet notices both injustices and small acts of defiance in the rural context.”

In many of the poems, McCarthy turns her attention to the slow processes of abandonment and decay, and here, for me, there is a move into particularly interesting territory. She doesn’t romanticise, but invites us to enjoy a borderland between ‘natural’ and human objects, where littered beer cans are as much a part of the landscape as blackberries and ‘bletted plums’ (wonderful word for the softening of fruit that I now know thanks to the poem ‘Strange fruits’). Several poems focus on the orchard’s array of dumped vehicles and domestic machinery, gradually overtaken by natural processes as if caught in a time-lapse sequence. There’s a ‘bramble-clamped car’ (how could you better that description?), the lingering presence of ‘spectres of ponies’ around a semi-dismantled horsebox. I especially liked the small but very telling poem ‘Dry Dock’, in which McCarthy tunnels with great precision into usually unobserved moments; three catamarans become:

hour    minute    second     hands
stilled around the dead tree

and in the rain:

Each new drop arrives by stealth 
as quiet as a theft

Alex Josephy’s review appears on London Grip.

A MsLexia reviewer also notices the wider political and ecological consequences of the decline of the orchards, chronicled in the collection:

The title poem, in five sections, sees boats out of their element: “a parched prow points towards the water / butt that catches the run-off from the outhouse roof. // It’s seen the turning of the seasons twice…” The various boats are absorbed into the landscape “a speedboat … / … sat so long … / … I noticed neither its presence nor absence …” […] and section (iv) draws attention, once more, to what is lost, or what is about to be lost, in the reference to the “floods in fifty-three” where sheep “were drowned / to due loss of local knowledge ‘ left to graze on marshland …’ A “loss of local knowledge” has dire consequences for the ecology.

This reviewer describes the book as: “slim, smooth and crisply illustrated by Sara Fletcher.”

There are Boats on the Orchard is available exclusively from Cultured Llama for £7 plus p&p.


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