:: Appraisal 2 click any image with a coloured border to enlarge.

12 Months of a Year
- a critical appraisal

This set of short poems - one for each month of the year - is mainly inspired by certain of England's most beautiful counties.

The sensitivities of the writer find resonance in a well-loved countryside and, sometimes, ideas develop from descriptions into deeper levels of thought. Detailed observations of sights, sounds, colours, ordinary happenings are brought to life, nowhere more eloquently than in February Encounter and A Plume of Smoke; at the heart of each, the simple act of lighting a fire in a rustic setting.

February encounter (Berkshire)

Two cones of flame against an ivied wall
blaze up from whorls of fiery twisted thorn
into a lucent dusk.
Men resting pause
to gaze – while children awed in ruddy glow
amazed half-circle round this fierce delight:
sparks spiral upward and the snowdrops show
bright beneath a shadowed yew tree's night.
A blackbird singing through the woods of home
as daylight dies.
So, withered is that slow
green life and blackened now the naked stone.

A plume of smoke (November)

I watched in a frozen morning of blue and gold –
again the ancient in a great-coat came
slow plodding through the hoar-frost woods
with his hayfork and sack of kindling sticks
a ring of breath about his head.
He stooped to coax a little scarlet flame –
upon this blazing heart he lightly leased
his pile of growth and from the summit of his cone
a plume of smoke rose to the sky
to swirl and seep through the white coral trees.

Inherent in the country life, the age-old theme of cultivating the land is given its due in changing seasons.

March (Berkshire)
‘and O my love’

The hares are running through the rills
that now will grow the barley –
Young shoots soon will show to pierce
as they lay down to parley –
Green stalks will grow to whispering silk
above a nascent arbour –
When corn is golden over the hills
then one will journey farther –

July's poem, Stand in the sun, John Foster, starts with the premise that some things will always be incompatible and leads the idea into farming.

Stand in the sun, John Foster! (Gloucester)

The elk cannot mate with the swallow
or the lion lay down with a doe –
golden wheels are tossing the grasses
the strong arm used to mow.

Then the old ways are boldly addressed:

Stand in the sun, John Foster!
stand to sharpen the scythe,
your fields are richly burgeoning
your corn is rising with pride.

Wild roses of summer are burning
at high noon above the lane,
your horses drowse in the meadow
bright harness rings in the shade.

Autumn sees:

the brittle corn chaff furrows burn
along the fields pale corduroy.
Dry straw flames in drifting smoke
like martin cries around the home,
their eager flying shuttles turned
to follow in a lifting cloud.

‘September to October turns’ - Norfolk

The poems for June and November start in the countryside then move away as each relates to universal, but widely differing, themes: War and Time.

June granted - 8.6.67 - was written, "On hearing of the lightning Israeli attack on Egyptian armoured forces in the desert." Leaving the peace of Hampshire for a scene of conflict, it contemplates the effect of war on human kind: on those drawn into combat and those who are left behind.

And she who spun
with flying fingers the long remembered
intricacy within a silent dusk
stopped to listen for a crisp footfall
to lay down a turf against the cold –
the deepening of unencompassed night.

And he who went
left the hearth that reared him, and the home,
to dissipate the seeping blood into the sand –
the broken betrayal of sunrise and the known
amidst the roar and passion of contested might.

The all-embracing mystery of time is considered in Time and the Comet. The fall of the year, following a known pattern, in a time-scale comprehensible to man, is set against the brightness of a comet, an object of wonder, its life span and seasons so far removed.

The eastward showered last leaves in the lane
a sound of a restless sea
eddying rooks as blown bonfire ash
sped on its strength to the west
tossing in strands of night – dark and clear.

The equinox stirred in the dormant sap
the last pear fell from the wall
while indifferent to the chimney's roar
the sparks last fugitive spin –
a Comet shone from stellar space.

'Time and the Comet', October (Hampshire)

Joy Finzi takes her place in a long line of poets who have seen the countryside with an inner eye and have brought their vision to others, through the richness and diversity of the English language.

Audrey Ingram, January 2003


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