Every month, we shine the light on a book from our collection – one which is new to the library, which has been particularly enjoyed by a borrower, recommended by a volunteer, or which seems salient to the month’s events or happenings. To see the archive of past books of the month (formerly book of the week), click here.
The current book of the month is…
There is no shortage of poems about the British countryside so it is always refreshing to discover a collection that finds a new way of looking at the landscape. This month’s Book of the Month is ‘The Soil Never Sleeps’, by Adam Horovitz, which does exactly that. Instead of passively observing, Horovitz spent time at four farms, understanding the work that goes into the making of the landscape. Alongside the inevitable crickets, skylarks and skimming swallows, we hear the low growls of quadbike engines, the hum of milking-machines, and conversations about farming in rural pubs and across farmhouse kitchen tables.
It is Horovitz’s observation of the small details that makes these poems sing – opening the book at random, I find “tractor scars in turf”, a bottle-fed lamb reaching to suck spilt milk from a watch-strap’s end, and piglets being born, emerging into the world ‘like slow bullets’. We see the ‘sunken cityscapes of insects, microbes, worms and roots’, and the grass, pumping down carbon from the air to sequester in the soil.
Some images do feel a little overused and lose the power in repetition – ‘vinegary’ silage, makes at least three appearances. And some poems also suffer by comparison with other poems on the same subjects – a poem about electric fences brings to mind Philip Larkin’s “Wires”, and (as stand-alone poems) these slightly pale in comparison.
But the power is not in the individual pieces, but in the way that the reader is encouraged to understand the farmed landscape. We are shown the “carefully disguised science” of farming, and this collection succeeds in planting new “seeds of ideas” about soil, farming, landscape, connections, and growth in all its forms.