Every week, 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 week’s events or happenings. To see the archive of past books of the week, click here.
The current book of the week is…
The Thunder Mutters: 14-20 June 2019
Alice Oswald begins her introduction to The Thunder Mutters by explaining that in Devon dialect, “a dew’s harp” is a rake, to which she dedicates the anthology: “a rhythmical but predictable instrument that connects earth to our hands.” Those who play the dew’s harp are “running their fingers over the leaves, listening in, finding what’s already there”. Poets are doing the same thing.
This speaks to the usefulness of poetry. Not just ornamental, pretty words, Oswald has selected here poems without whimsy: beauty, yes. Delicacy and attention to detail, yes, but not whimsy, and poems always with their ear to the ground, listening to the shifts and movements of the earth. From ancient anonymous folklore to words in the language of a contemporary Northumbrian fishing community (Katrina Porteous’s The Wund an’ the Wetter), these poems are chosen to show the connectedness of human worlds to the earth, where the personal and the natural borders overlap – and where the links between ourselves and our predecessors lie. Combining new and ancient reflections on landscapes and creatures that dwell in them, Oswald draws out the way humans have always sought connection to the world around them, and the way writing and story-telling links us to our past and into our future. From the timelessness of “lasting life’s-blast” in The Seafarer (an Anglo-Saxon lyric) to Ian Hamilton Finlay’s concrete poem which lists five wild grasses, five wetlands birds, and then five international oil giants – these are the songs of our time.
Running throughout the collection is the undeniable usefulness of poetry in “putting our inner worlds in contact with the outer world — a deep, slow process that used to be the remit of the rake”.
On Sunday 16 June we take the link between ecological action and poetry even further with our workshop RECYCLE A POEM at Oxfordshire Reuses festival. Join us between 12pm and 3pm as we rake through old books to find new meaning, breathing new life into old words, and recycling books destined for the bin through collage, cut-up poetry, black-out poetry, and paper-folding techniques.