The poignancy of loss sings from the pages of Deryn Rees-Jones’s latest collection, which is dedicated to her husband, the poet and critic Michael Murphy, who died in 2009. Often beginning from a place of grief and separation, they dwell in memory before reaching out imaginatively, meditating on rebirth, the body, and love. Curiosity and affection are extended to truffles, slugs, tattoos and eggs. Underwritten by the honesty of death, these powerful poems are steps toward finding meaning as life goes on. Surrounded by darkness, the bright images created by the poet form a truly moving body of work.
As such these poems rejoice in life, exuberantly expressed in the Dogwoman sequence which is inspired by the work of the artist Paula Rego. Celebrating the truth of ‘animal’ responses, these poems are vulnerable, uncomfortable – sometimes painful, and visceral. Far from the shame that ‘dog’ might imply, they eschew false pride: their strength and vulnerability create a personal and unique elegy.
Section III of the book, is comprised of poems from: The Songs of Elisabeth So. Elisabeth is a tantalisingly elusive fiction after the Dogwoman, her songs shaped in response to an unnameable love. She scrutinizes, pleads, questions, insists, regrets and then, reversing her initial dismissal, is joyful in the song and flight of birds. This forms a cycle, the first and final poems echoing one another.
Burying the Wren is a testament to Rees-Jones’s skill: whether holding up a trilobite or a memory to a poem’s light, that their shape and beauty endure for us long after reading.
‘Burying the Wren is a major event and achievement in the poetry of these islands.’