Steve Whitaker, Literary Correspondent
And So The Wind Blows: Poems From A Green & Blue Planet
The best poetry exceeds expectation, outreaches its own grasp, and sometimes yields unexpected, or unintended, rewards. The application of a connective thematic structure in Hodder’s wonderful new collection releases an energy which helps the poems to breathe more easily, or at least to enable the reader to make inferences about contemporary relevance which may transcend the limits, even, of authorial intention.
Aimed at those amongst us who will inherit the future – our children - Poems From a Green and Blue Planet
is a thorough and compendious anthology whose subject is the physical world we inhabit. Encouraging the young reader to view poems as conduits to recognition and illumination, Sabrina Mahfouz’ insightful curation divides the collection into ways of seeing natural phenomena with a renewed sense of wonder. And if that awe gives vent to a more engaged understanding of the ecological catastrophe that may face us, then the poems will have distilled meanings beyond their capacious compass.
And that division of concerns – Mahfouz invests her chapter titles with the abstract possibility of hope borne out of awareness – is the key to her selection process. Sensory immediacy is the key: ‘Sun Shines’, ‘Wind Blows’, ‘Water Flows’ provide natural shelter for poems of light and reason. Beneath their respective canopies we find poems directed specifically at children, poems of ancient provenance, poems of extraordinary prescience, and not least, poems whose canonical renown, perhaps for other reasons, does not preclude their propensity for topicality.
Included in an inventory of writers as temporally wide-ranging as Susan Coolidge, Horace, Emily Dickinson, and Raymond Antrobus, we find the work of Blake rubbing shoulders with Housman, Tennyson with Edna St.Vincent Millay and Tagore with Imtiaz Dharker. And the juxtapositions work to powerful effect in the very best sense - that the experiences informing each are antennae which may be turned to face all of our futures.
And how refreshing is it, in this beautifully-bound and presented anthology, to find a writer as tuned in to the prevailing zeitgeist as performance poet Kate Tempest. In ‘Picture a Vacuum’ she proposes a mirror to our anxieties, a sardonic vision of earth from Her own perspective, begetter of the best and the worst, mother of all ironies. It is to Kate Tempest’s great credit, and Sabrina Mahfouz’ perspicacity, that a child would understand:
‘Picture the world
Poems from a Green & Blue Planet edited by Sabrina Mahfouz
Older than she ever thought that she’d get
She looks at herself as she spins
Arms loaded with the trophies of her most successful
The pylons and mines
The powerplants shimmer in her still, cool breath
Now, is that a smile that plays across her lips
Or is it a tremor of dread?
The sadness of mothers as they watch the fates of their
is published by Hodder & Stoughton