Book Review : The Year of the Loch

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George W Colkitto

Diehard Publishers

72 pp.        £5.00

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Entertainment: : four-stars  Language: five-stars  Readability: : four-stars 

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 If you are a lover of nature you will love this book. If you are a lover of poetry you will love this book. George W Colkitto’s beautifully observed lyrics cover a year in the life of Castle Semple Loch at Lochwinnoch. The location is one of Scotland’s few remaining wetlands and is also home to an RSPB visitor’s centre and bird sanctuary. It is a place of retreat, contemplation and recreation, all of which and more are captured superbly in the poetry.

The poems run from November 2015 through to October 2016. There is, inevitably, an awful lot of rain in these poems, although wind, snow, ice, mist, fog and sunshine also have their roles to play. The wetness of the location is perfectly described in two short lyrics from April –

Tippling

 

uncorked clouds pour

another generous measure

the loch drinks on

swallows deep

 

Wet Kisses

 

haar smothers hill and tree

courts the somnolent loch

rain puckering with wet kisses

The changing of seasons, the human activity, birdlife, the light and shade, all are captured in words; as are sunsets, sunrises, mornings, evenings, afternoons and the depths of night. A neat trick here is that the poetic voice both observes the landscape while at the same time placing itself within the landscape: this renders the experience for the reader highly vivid, almost like being inside the poet’s head.

In its content this work may seem to be a million miles away from Kerouak’s ‘On the Road’ but it is by no means too distant from the beat writer’s ‘Big Sur’ or the work begun by The Black Mountain poets in the 1950s: the latter being very concerned with the role of humanity in the natural world and giving rise to a wider movement of ecological poets in more recent times. The work of Gerry Loose or the late Ian Hamilton Finlay relates to this ecological view as does much of what Colkitto does in this collection. In ‘Rottweiller’, a humorous piece of observation in itself, some of the complexity of the relationship between humans and nature is given voice –

Rottweiller

 

warning cries from the geese

a rottweiller approaches

walking a woman

 

birds retreat to the water

moving through white strewn grass

feathers like a dusting of summer snow

 

two swans refuse to abandon their nesting place

sit by the water’s edge in studied nonchalance

 

broken by the dog’s unwavering eye

exuberant advance

they shuffle reluctantly into the loch

 

prospect of kill gone

the dog heads back to its car

owner in tow

Overall, a wonderful depiction of a beautiful place, written with care and attention.

 

Reviewer :Dr Jim Ferguson

four-stars.png

 

 

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