This is a funny, tender, richly enjoyable first collection of poems, infused with a mischievous wit that shines through its sincerity of engagement. Owens cosmopolitan upbringing (she spent much of her childhood in various parts of the Middle East) is the background for the first poems in the book, and these set the scene for an unfolding, almost diaristic, fidelity to events. The subsequent poems, too, engage directly with her life, now with her family, animals and friends on Anglesey. This is the day-to-day in its most detailed aspects, such as the nature of her husbands beard (Your beard) or the way her dog is standing ('Oscar'). For Owens is, above all, a poet who notices. Greenfly, woodlice, slugs nothing is too microscopic for her mindful art.
Though they are often everyday in subject, her poems are the very reverse of banal, for they achieve the happy (and complex) trick of being personal without being self-centered. Neither are they scared of tackling the universal, although poems of this kind hit their target best when (as in Archies moment or Shivas fly) they grow out of the particular. The poems which come at the universal with full-on abstractions, such as Field, are not as strong as those where the abstractions are broken down, as in the title sequence.
The presiding spirit of the collection, however, is a joyousness that seeks light in darkness, as in That last week, a poem about a long death:
A new light flickered in you
and as ice becomes water becomes steam
you evaporated, slipped the body
one week late, one morning
Closing the book, the reader has the sense of having been a guest made welcome at the hearth of a warm, full and attentive life.
Elin ap Hywel
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