The Dog of Memory
Helen Farish’s third collection is preoccupied with narratives from the past. ‘What if everyone who ever lived here had left one thing behind?’ she asks in one poem.
The dog of memory, an animal more often unbiddable and capricious than it is comforting and predictable, roams the landscapes of its choice: not only place, Farish’s native Cumberland and further afield – mornings in Sicily, night skies in Athens – and people, but also the landscape of literature itself which is explored through re-readings of authors encountered during her school days – Tennyson, Shakespeare, the Brontes. The imagined bird flying over Hardy’s Casterbridge treats the sky ‘like a page it has signed’, becoming a metaphor for the poet herself. Fictional geographies are placed side by side with the personal as she visits and revisits locations from childhood to which time has bequeathed an almost spiritual significance – the Victorian novelty clock in the shape of a monkey which ticked away the hours in an aunt’s farmhouse as the rain fell, ‘Where is he and what does he see now?’Farish’s dogged and deeply moving excavation of the past, rendered in poetry which demonstrates her formal dexterity, takes the reader on a thrilling journey – lyrical, dramatic, enquiring – before reaching its redemptive destination. Looking out at ‘a sky of darkest felt’, the resolve of dining friends is to ‘cut tomorrow’s / unwoven cloth’.
Paperback; 138 x 216mm