This review is taken from Stand 238, 21(2) July - September 2023.

Emily Oldfield, Calder (Poetry Salzburg, 2023)
Jon Miller, Past Tense Future Perfect (Smith Doorstop, 2023)
Karen Downs-Barton, Didicoy (Smith Doorstop, 2023)

Life, to paraphrase Kierkegaard, must be lived forward, but can only be understood backwards. These three pamphlets explore significantly different lives, but share a reverence – pock-marked with lament – for the past. They are composed of fragments of memories and time entwined in life, landscape, and feeling.

Emily Oldfield’s Calder pulls the reader through Yorkshire and pulls Yorkshire through the reader. All our senses are engaged throughout the various portraits and excursions which populate the pamphlet, and Yorkshire is as much a character as a setting; we feel it underfoot as the land speaks to us, but ‘contours are a language  we cannot hear’ and we must learn that ‘listening  is what it is to walk’ (‘Ingleborough’). We wipe the mist of fizzy air from our faces at Saltburn, contemplating ‘how the sea steers her spray  through the lungs’ (‘Saltburn’). The sonic becomes a sting, as ‘the hiss of the wave as it runs to break  in the tidemark, red  against your neck’, and Saltburn is transposed from place-name to diagnosis.

Evidently, God’s own county lives within us all and becomes partially excavated as it forms as breath when one recites the words of its places, as Oldfield knowingly intimates in ‘Gauxholme’:
The translated trill of a pheasant
That guttural click as you start with  
Gaux. A place word that puckers
the mouth to a kiss.
Or, in ‘Gorpley’, where ‘every dropping syllable  takes ...
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