Thursday 27 September 2012

Kim Moore's 'The Rabbit and the Moon': Revisiting Watership Down Yet Again

A couple of weeks ago, Inpress sponsored a Poetry Garden at London's Southbank, to celebrate their 10th anniversary. This included readings from various of their poets, but I totally failed to get out of bed in time (ie. I got up really, really, really late) and missed the readings. It was still pleasant to drop by, though, and see the tables of poetry books and the Poetry Bouquets, featuring real flowers adorned with quotations from Rilke (appropriately) and others.

I ended up buying Kim Moore's pamphlet If We Could Speak Like Wolves. It was quite prominently displayed as she'd been reading earlier, but the title drew my eye, and when I had a peek inside I realised that I was likely to enjoy it. I later got in touch with Moore and asked if I could reproduce one of the poems on my blog, which she kindly gave me permission to do.

Moore is from Barrow-in-Furness in Lancashire, and the imagery of many of the poems is distinctly northern. When I read 'Sometimes You Think of Bowness', I remembered my visit to Windermere and Bowness in the Lake District, some years ago. Most of that weekend the weather was good, and I was quite taken with the Lake District's beauty; a bit like north Wales, but softer. It rained when we went to Windermere and Bowness and a picture of that afternoon came back to me through these lines:

[...] but mostly you think of the people, drawn to water,

and how it looks in the rain, as if the very shops
are made of water, of ducking into a doorway
and carrying the smell of rain inside.

The title poem, 'If We Could Speak Like Wolves', has the muscular power of the creatures it describes:

[...] if a mistake could be followed
by instant retribution and end with you
rolling over to expose the stubble and grace
of your throat [...]

It builds and builds to the payoff at the end; this is not just a stunning portrait of wild animals, but a picture of a relationship "more simple than marriage." The poem works as a kind of slanted nature poem, but the final lines make the reader see it all in a new light.

I loved 'The Wolf' as well, which populates the reader's mind with dark, archetypal images from what seems to be a particularly sinister lost fairytale. 'The Ferryman' goes back to the figure of Charon, who has been much written about, but I found the fusion of modern and mythological imagery especially strong; the dead "sit on chair-shaped rocks,/as if they can still feel the shunt/of the tube", and some carry mobile phones. Again, the ending skilfully calls everything which has led up into it into question, and makes the revisiting of this ancient theme more than worthwhile.

Inevitably, I really loved 'The Rabbit and the Moon'. Kim Moore said she was very pleased I had picked up on the fact that the imagery was drawn from Watership Down; my old obsession, how could I not spot it immediately? She'd been drawn to the cartoon especially, as a child, as I was to the book. This poem weaves in the book's themes beautifully, almost as a travelogue with perspective shifting from humans to animals.

(The painting featured on this entry is, of course, Dürer's famous image. I know that it is actually a hare, but I had it in my mind to go along with this post and it wouldn't go away.)

You can purchase the pamphlet on this link, from The Poetry Business:


Let me tell you the story of a high, lonely place
where sight and sound carry with the pylon
that gives its shadow to the hill, and the farm
many fields away, and the long straight road.

A bird calls kehaar, kehaar to the moon
and trains are falling, falling into the night.
The black rabbit waits outside the caravan
and come morning, the booted feet of gulls

will be telling us to leave, but if we stay,
the dogs will lie like rugs at our feet.
Somewhere, there are other rabbits, and a river
to sail away on. Somewhere, there's a boat.

Poem © Kim Moore, 2012. Used by permission.

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