One of my favourite performers of poetry is Rose Cook. Listening to her perform her poems – for indeed, she performs, rather than reads – one is lulled almost to a state of trance, her mesmerising delivery soft, insistent, almost plaintive. Every single syllable becomes a perfect moment, each word carefully chosen, I have seen rooms filled with people silent in rapt attention.
Rose has a new book out. Hearth is published by Cultured Llama, who also published one of her previous collections, Notes from a Bright Field. As ever the themes range from nature to the family to those everyday matters which affect us all, living, breathing, and indeed, dying. Yet they are done so with assuredly and often with humour. In one poem she muses on the steep incline of the local high street, pondering on whether to get a donkey, ‘She can have the shed . .’. Another poem, ‘A Situation Arising from a Complete Inability to Master Any Language but her Own’, hilariously works on the scenario of the title.
The family is at the core of this collection. Many of the poems are meditations on her relationship with her mother, or the shock of a life-threatening injury to her own son. At such points there is real emotion, though never overblown or overwrought. Rose has the most deft of touches and can, with a very simple or honest phrase, provoke real emotion and universal sentiments.
‘When I was a child, my mother would say,
if you get lost, don’t go looking for me.
Stay put. Stay there and I will find you.
She’s gone now.’
There are also remarkable descriptions of nature and the natural environment, from opening a pomegranate, to meditations on elephants and whales. Rose is an astute and inventive observer of the world around her, a talent used in those poems which describe paintings and photographs, or listening to a conversation on a train about an injured crow and imagining it in a cardboard box.
The world is a better place with Rose in it, from the turns which bring truth to the fore throughout her poems, to the humour she brings to the everyday. And if, like me, you’ve been lucky enough to hear her perform, her voice will stay with you throughout this wonderful collection.