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Hame by Julie-ann Rowell

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Julie-Ann Rowell’s touching and acutely observed Orkney poems show how local, everyday details dwell at the vey “centre of our lives and deaths”. In beautifully phrased poems that sing with an integral music, these poems are suffused in local specifics and language - Groatie Buckies (cowries), wild and hardy swimming women, swarms of jellyfish, puffins, hares in the field, and coasting mallimacks (fulmars)- leaving you feeling like you’ve just visited Orkney yourself. In a prayer-like poem about the conservation struggle between the stoat and the Orkney vole, Julie-Ann begs vital questions of how humans live with nature, while the man-made and natural sounds are ever present in the sonic boom of passing fighter jets or the hooley of the northern wind. These poems show Julie-Ann’s gift to be able to capture tiny details and open them up to much wider significances, such as a driftwood table leg that is washed up and ‘separated from its meaning’. Resonant and replete new poems from a poet keenly attuned to her environs.

Andy Brown

 

Julie-ann Rowell sings her beloved Orkney in sharply observed, deftly crafted lyrics. Spare and grounded in harsh realities and industrial wreckage as much as the island’s wild beauty, these poems are unromantic in the best sense, marrying vivid sensory perceptions with the shock of tough lives lived at the margins. Both hard and tender, like the ‘small woman with the fortress inside’ who won’t hesitate to shoot an animal when required but lovingly scatters crumbs for the birds, these poems are alert to the changing weathers, ugliness and loveliness of life as it is actually lived, with all its irreconcilable contrasts and discrepancies.

Matthew Barton

 

'Julie-ann Rowell's new collections, book-length or pamphlets, are always a cause for celebration. I don't often say that these days. Rowell's voice is unique, and Hame is the poet at her best: lyrical, image-rich words, intimate, lacing together outer and inner, fleeting joys or darker moments. 

Rowell is a poet unafraid of writing about cruelty and death; and yet the poems are not heavy. She sees deeply into the nature of being in the outer world; observing keenly, commenting minimally but personally. Whether she's writing about seasons, town or city concerns, greylag geese or the trapping of stoats, she brings a penetrating passion to what she perceives.'

Roselle Angwin

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