Friday Poem – ‘Bowerbirds’ by Deryn Rees-Jones

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Bowerbirds’ by Deryn Rees-Jones from her collection Erato which was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize and Wales Book of the Year.

This cover shows a blurred black and white image of someone dancing.

Named after the Greek muse of lyric poetry, Erato combines documentary-style prose narratives with the passionate lyric poetry for which Rees-Jones is renowned. Here, however, as she experiments with form, particularly the sonnet, Rees-Jones asks questions about the value of the poet and poetry itself. What is the difference, she asks in one poem, between a sigh and a song? Erato’s themes are manifold but particularly focus on personal loss, desire and recovery, in the context of a world in which wars and displacement of people has become a terrifying norm.

Start now with the smallest things,
a pile of blackened acorns, glinting beetle wings,
the green fruit and purple flowers of the potato bush.
He trails a path of halts and hesitations
like stations of the cross,
turns colour in his mind, perspective.
Snail shells or the blue of berries?
(Is that a bud of jasmine in his beak?)
His bower, I see, is thatched with orchid stems,
moss laid like a lawn at the entrance to his bivouac,
orange leaves like a pool of restless koi.
This stuff he collects as a small boy might,
adrift on a prayer of football cards and dinosaurs.
All settles as he eyes her. And here now,
like a seal on his heart, a bed of blooms
pulled from a bush.
How carefully he’s considered her.
This pink, he thinks, of roses.

Erato is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Looking for Christmas gift inspiration? Browse our Christmas Gift Guide for literary ideas for the whole family.

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