Review

Pocahontas in Ludgate, Mike Bannister

£7.50 UK post free. (ISBN 978-1-904852-15-5) Arrowhead Press, 70 Clifton Road, Darlington, Co. Durham, DL1 5DX

This is a fine and moving collection of poems, a summation of a lifetime of thinking and feeling and perceiving. It is a collection of findings, a series of accounts of the deep heart¹s unwavering pulse. Indeed, the first poem, TOWN CLOCK METFIELD sets the tone for the book and is most revealing of the poet's way of seeing and celebrating. We have the paradoxes of a movement born of stasis and of the pendulum recording the soundless voice of time and, like the clock, the poet celebrates and guards the day's round scope and charter.

Like the conscientious craftsman he is, Mr. Bannister knows the vital importance of measuring time against the world's unwinding. This entire collection might be said to be a verbal clock that meticulously measures the passing of time with all its losses and gains. Like the handsome pine of the poem, YARD SALE, this poet is determined to endure with courage and dignity the last effronteries of time while hearing still the muted redolence/of violins. As the title, POCAHONTAS IN LUDGATE suggests, the beautiful and the exotic can best be glimpsed through the tarnished and the mundane.

One is struck throughout by this poet's intense desire to record his sense impressions with as much exactitude as possible: he emulates his LITTLE BUDDHA OF THE SNOWS who prepares himself/ to fathom the exact and particular/ sound of snow falling. This is a preparation which takes a whole lifetime to master. There are countless instances of the exact and particular use of language throughout this collection and of the poet's extraordinary ability to be still, to listen, to observe and to consider. A wonderful example of this is the poem entitled THE ZEN OF SAIL which Begins/with the serenity of letting go, where we are invited to Observe the conversation of water and Breathe in the dry sweetness of oiled wood. This touching, penultimate poem ends fittingly in a homecoming: a homecoming to the deepest, most attentive aspects of ourselves. This book is filled with journeys, particularly sea voyages, loved places and homecomings: the ferry draws close to old, familiar places which have grown, through memory and time, strangely new and beautiful.

Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;

This collection ends with one of the loveliest and most lyrical poems in the book: ARGYLL FAREWELL in which the poet writes of the dark season and one senses that he is writing not just of winter but of age. But just as the sky of the long Highland winter is on some days flooded with unearthly rivers of light, so age can be a time of sudden blessings, a time to gather and sift experiences in order to forge some long sought sense of wholeness. Like those Shakespearian PLAYERS who

commit hard lines to memory; delivering,
out of paint and dust and fear, the passion of a play,
                   the heart's atonement, all in all.

I've no doubt that readers will gain immeasurably from committing many of the poems in POCAHONTAS IN LUDGATE to memory and in sharing in the weaving of the glowing tapestry of Mike Bannister's poetic homecoming.

James Knox Whittet,
March 2007

James Knox Whittet was born and brought up on the Hebridean island of Islay, and went on to read English at Cambridge University. His first collection is entitled A Brief History of Devotion (Hawthorn Press 2003) and his collaboration with the Norfolk artist John Richter is entitled Seven Poems for Engraved Fishermen (2004). James is the editor of 100 Island Poems (Iron Press 2005). He twice won the Crabbe Memorial Poetry Competition. He is collaborating with the photographer Sue Anderson on a book about Islay.


Copyright © 2007 Arrowhead Press
Last modified: June 13th 2007