Review: A Wound’s Sound by Gillian Prew

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A Wound’s Sound
by Gillian Prew
62 pages
Published by Oneiros Books in 2014

Cover Art by Matt Sesow


This poem

This poem has blood in its ears/
it is being hauled up by a hook/
it is losing consciousness
   

This Poem is by Gillian Prew

Gillian Prew’s recent publication A Wound’s Sound (Oneiros Books, 2014) is described thus, 

The ambient howl-sound pervades everything. The gutted beasts are everywhere – billions raised and slaughtered for food globally each year. A Wound’s Sound is an attempt to distill and voice their pain and their silence.

The above being true, the book in itself is an elegiac affirmation of the beauty and terror of nature from a perspective offering itself as the animal voice of worship and of pain. That the animal is slaughtered at the hand of man guides Prew’s expression and advises the thematic flow of A Wound’s Sound. Within and beyond her desire to expose inhumane cruelty Prew’s subtle expressiveness cannot but affirm her own life and presence as a poet,

 

Sun Trap

World, damned hieroglyph,
your skin is not mine nor
do your fuchsias bend like bells for me.
it is hot today. I meet the sun alone-
more intimate than being born.
Too hot for human reason, yet
ants bear colossi round my feet.

Sun Trap is © Gillian Prew

Here, then is the tension at the heart of A Wound’s Sound: Man’s inhumanity to animals is expressed and projected through the poetic voice of a woman poet. The issue of projection and awareness of the pain of the other, in this case the pain of the animal raised for slaughter, is difficult to achieve as one can never be sure that the subjective is not impinging upon the creative process. The poet must then put herself into the centre of the book, as the voice of the wounded animal and as revelator of inhumane cruelty. Achieving this balance is probably a very difficult thing to do as it necessitates centering oneself at the heart of the action, both identifying with human cruelty at a personal level, while at once rejecting it within the self and elegiasing small loss.

One needs to be a poet of skill, organisation and experience to approach the themes that I have set out above here to retain enough neutrality to allow the poem to develop its expression so that the reader is not swamped in the subjective viewpoint of the poet. Prew succeeds in achieving an elegiac tone to the whole book without subverting the reader’s interest by producing short imagistic pieces alongside slightly longer and more thematically developed poems,

from Elegy

Nothing sounds but sky/nothing
to touch but folds of wind
and the rain doubled from sadness
tumbling itself down.

    Deep/
  deep
the loss it bends/
it sees

  the trees
sucking up and spitting out
stripping the water to a drop/

a wet whisper/ a hole.

From Elegy by Gillian Prew

As here are wounded animals that have found themselves in the wrong place and time. Thus, an element of chance plays into Prew’s narrative,

No God

I was born into the wrong fields. They stuttered
with ever-goldening, the black pulse of growth,
and I played right into their forest skirts
full of bluebells and night time. my house was
 smoke and separation.

from No God by Gillian Prew

 

A Wound’s Sound is in the main a book of short and micro-poems, some of which are gathered into groupings like “restlessly, driven by leaves ” (after Rilke) and Fragments from Noticing. These micro-poems are intense natural distillations imbued with unique colour and pared to the bone of the image,

The soaring cold barks at windows like a kept-out dog
whines through the small spaces/slows the old.

Jackdaws and magpies land on the treetops.
The branches flap/they wave.
An old man looks up in his flat cap/
his mouth a shut wound.

from” restlessly, driven by leaves”

Gillian Prew is a poetic craftswoman, her tight imagery and structuring allow her to encapsulate her symbols in perfect neat aphorisms that concentrate the reader’s mind wholly on the idea that she wishes to create. Prew’s colouring is limpidly gray, often suddenly dashed with colour like the rowanberry stain as blood symbolic.

Prew’s colour use is evocative and symbolic throughout A Wound’s Sound. The gimlet eye of the soaring bird suddenly dashes and alters the reader’s perspective. This use of device and altered perspective make her landscape planes appear wavering and fragile in many places. She handles her craft with great acuity and professionalism, and whilst the major themes of A Wound’s Sound could be maudlin, an assuredness of personal style allows the poet enough canvas to turn the universal themes of slaughter and death into the sweetly elegiac – a song of affirmation, or witness.

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