Unruled Journal by Anne Ryland
Anne Ryland's third collection begins with and ends with the human body, honouring its traumas, mysteries and miracles. She questions a world in which 'a woman can serve / too lavishly' and explores the legacy of her maternal line. Meditations on class, spirituality and mortality are suffused with a gentle and playful humour, but there is an underlying profundity. We linger with those who are still anchored to life while also struggling to leave. The restless dead write letters to apologize and manage to enlighten us. History is mined; unsung heroes and heroines step forward. Many poems are rooted in the adopted landscape of Northumberland in all its 'neither-nor-ness'. Tracing and crossing borders both geographical and metaphorical, there is a continued searching for 'the mountainous heartlands' of a house, for homeland, for unknown homes that evoke longing, and for the vitality to be found in ruins. Versions of poems by Hilde Domin are interwoven into the collection, introducing readers to the German poet's spare and haunting poems about exile and displacement. The collection contains prose poems, elegies, epistolary poems, secular prayers and poems in intriguing shapes, and moves with gathering pace and exhilaration towards an outburst of running poems at the end. This book rejoices in language, which becomes a sanctuary, an escape route and a force capable of transcending barriers. It is a collection of quiet tragedies and unashamedly small joys. Poems draw on dialect and etymology, while words from other languages reveal layers and launch poems - until finally we come to the 'primal language of sigh and puff and laugh'. Vivid imagery opens a door to imagined worlds. There are unsettling but enriching encounters: a skeleton sitting on a bench offers companionship; a celebratory 'duet' takes place between a tea lady and the poet's dying father; a mother worries about those who score 10/10 for grammar; a desk evolves into a threshold and a male muse; a derelict dolls' house without a staircase becomes a rendez-vous; a woman discovers a skylight in her voice; a town is enlivened by running women 'airing themselves out before they turn foosty'