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Bibliographical Information
Where the Air is Rarefied
Susan Richardson
ISBN: 9781907090325 (1907090320)Publication Date: May 2011
Publisher: Cinnamon Press
Illustrated by Pat GregoryFormat: Paperback, 234x156 mm, 80 pages Language: English Out of print Our Price: £11.99   
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Exciting collaboration between poet and artist. Where the Air is Rarefied explores environmental and mythological themes relating to the Far North.

Llyfr sy'n ffrwyth cydweithio rhwng y bardd, Susan Richardson, a'r arlunydd, Pat Gregory.
This beautiful and skilfully crafted book is not a collection of Susan Richardson's poems with illustrations tacked on by printmaker, Pat Gregory. The poems and prints are in partnership, forming a creative duet based on the memories of two travellers. They form an ode to what the creators have seen, learnt and loved in the northern, subarctic and Arctic regions, also influenced by Inuit folk tales, Icelandic sagas and the accounts of polar explorers.

This is a book to savour through the eye of the flesh and the mind. Dip in at random and explore the deeps and shallows. The poems range from a few words to two or three pages, the mood from light to dark.

Although the book is not formally divided, there is a progression of narrative. ‘Nerrivik’, the opening poem, portrays nature as vengeful, demanding to be well-treated. Then follows a score of delightful pages: a string of gem-like snapshots, memories, gestalt moments frozen in time. The travellers have closely observed their unfamiliar surroundings, fallen in love and greedily noted details for remembrance. The world is changing, these places will be different in the future.

Susan Richardson delights the reader with her wordplay and imagery: ‘a john rutter mass of wings and light’. I particularly enjoyed the alphabet series of poems, ‘Å to Ys’. It has everything from a recipe to a fjord which ‘winks and casts her come-hither glances. / She slips on the red shoes of sunset - and dances’.

The next section is darker, portraying the often passionate relationship between man and nature. The initial euphoria of a new love affair has gone sour and reality shows through. Next comes ‘Tip of the Icetongue’. The poems are a frozen stream of ice-consciousness which melts and unravels over nine pages. The message is clear: ‘Winter's on the critical list’. The last section shows that the result of violence and destruction is death of habitat and extinction. There are five wildlife poems, each preceded by the species's date of extinction. The ending reverts to beauty: a slender thread of hope shown in three prints in which are embedded two haiku-inspired poems.

This is a collaboration of joy and sorrow. It is thought provoking, demanding to be read again.

Catriona Jackson

It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.

Gellir defnyddio'r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatâd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru.
Author Biography:
Susan Richardson is a poet, performer and educator based in Cardiff. Her collection of poetry, Creatures of the Intertidal Zone, was inspired by her journey through Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland in the footsteps of an intrepid eleventh century female Viking. She has been published in numerous journals and anthologies; is one of the poets-in-residence on BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live and was commissioned to write and perform poetry for BBC2’s coverage of the 2009 Chelsea Flower Show. She regularly performs her work at festivals and environmental events throughout the country.

Pat Gregory has lived in Cardiff for 27 years. Her printmaking draws on themes from fairytale, myth and issues around personal and social transformation. She is interested in how an image might hold and address the tension between apparently contradictory ideas. Pat has been exhibiting since the late 80s, and has also produced ranges of cards and handmade jewellery. In 1997 she worked in India for two months on the final Wales Rajasthan artists exchange.
Further Information:
“This poetry demands to be read alongside the visual images involved in its creation, not because it could not communicate alone, but because of that interplay it invokes and exploits between the two. The collection pushes Susan Richardson’s work well beyond her previous comfort zones, marking her emergence into a new breadth and vividness of voice,”
Philip Gross
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