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…

December: A Hatchery of Shadows ed. Elsa Hammond

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December’s Book of the Month is “A Hatchery of Shadows“, a short anthology published in 2020. It was produced as part of a project called “SciPo”, an Oxford-University-led initiative which aims to “explore the creative common ground” between science and poetry – perhaps with a nod towards developing the poetic equivalent of “Sci-Fi”. This collection contains poems on the theme of “Plants, Brain and Imagination”. Such a wide range of subjects inevitably leads to a diverse range of responses, and results in an anthology which feels like a collection of disparate voices rather than something with a clearly developing tone or theme. However, most of the poems are strong enough to stand out, and they showcase the skill and inventiveness of the poets.

Jules Wright’s poem “Silver Birch“, (from which the collection takes its title) sensitively compares her mother to a birch tree, ‘thin-leaved and hard-wooded’. A poem by Adam Horovitz (a previous OPL Book of the Month poet) describes a walk through the ‘edge lands’ of London, through ‘the wildernesses where willowherb and ivy argued for space amongst bricks’. Denni Turp stretches the brain and imagination of the reader, inviting them to imagine themselves being transformed into a park – ‘breaking out in oaks and flower borders’, and with a keeper to ‘keep the dandelions and daisies down’. Stephen Paul Wren’s poem “Intent on Purple” most deeply explores the “Sci” element of SciPo – describing biological processes at a molecular level. It is the first poem this reviewer has ever encountered which includes the words ‘isomerase’, ‘flavanone-3-hydroxylase’ and ‘dihydrokaempferol’ (which incidentally holds the current record for the longest word in the OPL collection). The range and variety of these works avoids the ‘anthology fatigue’ sometimes experienced when reading more narrowly-focussed anthologies.

Hatchery‘s kaleidoscope of subjects, imagery and techniques results in a captivating collection, and demonstrates that ‘Sci-Po’ may be a genre worthy of further exploration.