Shoal Moon: 23 Poems by Anne Boileau - Review by Mike Bannister

Shoal Moon: 23 Poems by Anne Boileau - Review by Mike Bannister

Shoal Moon is a slim volume I very much enjoyed reading. It continues to give pleasure, each time I turn to it.  Anne Boileau’s gift is to enter into the spirit of things, and to redeem the past; a gift nowhere better realised than with the opening stanzas of The Kyle of Tongue. The poet-observer transports herself and the listener, into another ‘time before time’. It is one of several such pleasures for the reader-in-waiting.

These are poems that summon us to make good journeys. In the company of characters from Europe to Africa, travellers and travailers, we learn and live out, together, aspects of the natural world, of love and war. Alongside these, tribal anecdotes, topsy-turvy tales and other eventualities, are all made memorable by the author’s singular imagination and ever-present empathies.

The sonnet A Fulmer Petrel Dances… with its subtle, unforced rhymes, conjures, graphically, the soaring ballet of sea-bird and shadow. There is a wild air of remoteness, a truth-telling, most lovingly crafted. Elsewhere Within its Time and Frame the thoughts of a girl, witness to the work-a-day slaughter of a wild hare, are juxtaposed with an unexpected moment, further in time, when Albrecht Durer’s superb engraving ensnares her memory and the pathos of the past. It calls to mind Andrew Marvel  ‘The wanton troopers riding by…’

R.G. Collingwood, the renowned archaeologist and art-historian believed that every hard-won discovery should be interrogated, so as to reveal its very purpose and meaning; even down to the motivations and mores of its creator. Through such disciplines, we approach the point where Art, Memory and Imagination come together as true understanding. In Shoal Moon at Sutton Hoo, the long poem, from which this collection takes its name, Collingwood’s precept is, in a real sense, satisfied.

In seventeen stress-metred stanzas, Shoal Moon at Sutton Hoo makes recognition of what our famous Suffolk treasure represents. The poem is an inspired piece, grounded in ideas of collective human need and yearning; a feat of the imagination, an enrichment, both powerful and persuasive ‘The smell of herring brings it back…’ completely. I recall, some time ago, hearing Anne read this fine work to an attentive audience. It was an arresting moment. To rediscover the piece, here on the printed page, is a pleasure indeed.

If it is true that serious poets underpin their work with exact observation and a profound sensitivity to humankind, to landscape and to history.  Anne Boileau is a serious poet. Her subtle ironies and her ways with words, bring wonder, surprise and delight in abundance.

Mike Bannister July 8th 2014

Copies of Shoal Moon may be ordered from Grey Hen Press at £6.00 including p&p or from The Bookcase in Hebden Bridge. 

www.bookcase.co.uk Tel: 01422 845353.

Shoal Moon is published by Grey Hen Press greyhenpress.com.

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