Landscape and Memory : a review of Geraldine Green’s Salt Road.
by Susan Jane Sims
It is Autumn and my garden is dappled with sunlight. I have in my hand a copy of Geraldine Green’s Salt Road and wondering what to expect. I know she’s a landscape poet and the cover by Ronnie Goodyer of Indigo Dreams Publishing is evocative; earthy grey rocks, sea and distant mountains. Not a chocolate box landscape but a fundamental one. A good beginning.
There is an urgency in this writing, these stories and poems: “I have to write this down” the writer says (p.41) “the seagulls the tide full and returning/the noise the cries, purple-pink light/sun rising, bruised sky, air lifting.” On one level the recognition that no two moments are the same, that landscape is dynamic and like a painter the scene has to be captured. On another level as more and more poems are absorbed, for me the need becomes humankind’s need to record the moment before it disappears forever. The urgency therefore is justified.
The setting for much of this work is Geraldine Green’s homeland of Cumbria in the North of England however the collection also journeys to other landscapes both rural and urban: Greece, New York City, Oklahoma; landscapes and people for whom Geraldine has recognised a deep connection, marginalised cultures and people who have had their way of life swept away in what may feel to others to be progress. In these pages their voice is listened to by a writer with a great ear for dialogue. I love the moving story of the old man made homeless by flooding, his story told over the breakfast table on a “New York City morning” (No Place) partly nostalgia for an America he remembers as “good” despite the poet reminding us of the hardships of the period: “an era of yellow stars/and persecution/mass inflation/barrowloads of paper money.”
Where there is change there is also loss both personal and global. “I used to know these things” title, p.37) the narrator says: “the season for shrimps”, “the names of trees”, “the feel of a lapwing in my hand”, “the taste of a new laid egg”, to select just a few from a beautiful and reflective poetic list. The writer speaks for those of us, and we are many, who live without any synchronicity with the natural world, those of us who eat strawberries daily and out of season tempted by their artificial red lusciousness. “Drilling for oil”, “nuclear powered subs”, “wind farms” that [snag] migrating birds” and in Roman times the search for” iron to smelt as weapons” (Power Lines) are global issues felt locally by a landscape that is constantly having its will shaped by the need to harvest its resources. Here the poet does not offer judgement, she observes, records and presents in a language we recognise.
Go out into the sunlight or curl up in a chair by the window and hug this poet’s words to you. For this is what they deserve, your close attention. Just like the earth.
Geraldine Green’s Salt Road was recently published by Indigo Dreams Publishing.