Review of  ‘In the Shadow of Gods’ by Rachel Deering

Wherever you open this collection, a strange poetic music snakes its way into your ears.

The 21st century (often) seems a long away off. We are in a world of forest, river and myth from Greek, Celtic or Old Norse cultures.

There are rich close-ups of the natural world, of trees, fish, birds, plants and the seasons. The poet creates startling images, for example, ‘my heart is a crow/ its wingbeats, a pulse’, or, ‘toads are waking, mothered/by water, belched’.

This is very structured collection, with sequences of poems dealing with different aspects of the living world and yet it feels like each poem flows from what comes before.

Sometimes the poet’s emotions shine through, but often expressed through metaphors relating to nature or myth.

In ‘Tawny Owl’, she grieves for a friend who she visited in hospital, reflecting that ‘we are so mysterious; the calls/ of tawny owls in conversation/ with the night.’ Even silence is full of meaning: ‘what is exchanged thickens the air/ between us, conveyed by touch and/ the coalescence of shadows.’

At the end of this bewitching collection, is an unexpected bonus, under the title ‘Words found in a hidden nook’. Eight extra poems to add to this substantial trove of strange, wild work, including one of my favourites, ‘The Night Heron’ who stalks ‘in stealth, creepfoot to creepfoot’,  and who is finally summed up as ‘a swindler, troubled and untroubled/ she loves and sleeps like a poet.’

I like the idea of poets as herons. (God help the fish.)

This is a beguiling, haunting collection by Rachel Deering, available from Black Bough Poetry.