Current Reading – Deep Time: Volume I

I’ve just finished reading Deep Time, Volume I from Black Bough Poetry. I’m really enjoying the way the anthology presents different responses and perspectives in dialogue with Robert Macfarlane’s book, Underland.

Each poem in the collection was crafted as a response to the ideas, places or writing presented by Macfarlane as he documented a reflective journey through and of the Earth in a unique refractive travelogue that bends time and space.

Responding to a contemporary complex text is an interesting callout in itself (kudos to editor Matthew M. C. Smith), and the poetry doesn’t disappoint. The mixture of voices create a kind of poetic conversation; diverse, in style and content. This leads to surprising discoveries and juxtapositions as we read through the volume, making this an enriching and thought-provoking – letting the reader find their own particular paths to travel.

Stylistically, the poems range from short, word-rich imagist poems through to concrete poetry; they read as separate explorations, realising different reflections and representations that range from a sense of immersion and materiality to more spiritual reflections, some author-centric, some with a focus on a sensory understanding of Earth, centring the material rather than the human.

The accompanying illustrations by Rebecca Wainwright work sensitively with the poetry; this is a gentle, thought-provoking rather than a strident book. Both poetry and images take us underground as readers, into a different space, where the diversity of thoughts, images and reflections work to portray a multi-layered, fascinating world. There’s little self-conscious artifice in these responses, but instead, a deep sincerity.

Although there’s lots of great poetry in there, stand-outs at my first read were Robert Minnhinnick’s short, sonically charged ‘Hailstones’ and Jack Bedell’s three ‘Kate Mulvaney’ poems, which present a picture of gentle pragmatic witchiness grounded in specificity and detail.

A perfect book to read on a rainy Summer afternoon with a coffee and a biscuit.

Black Bough have released a series of soundscapes and readings to accompany the book.

Filed under: Book review, Poetry

About the Author

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Sarah-Jane is an educator at Hereford College of Arts and a postgraduate researcher at Birmingham City University. Her poetry can be read in various journals, including the Muddy River Poetry Review, the Wales Haiku Journal, The Inflectionist Review and Black Bough Poetry's Deep Time Two Anthology. She was shortlisted for the Haiku Foundation's Touchstone Award in April 2020.