This is a sublime collection, redolent of a masterfully arranged bouquet – no sparsity, beautiful details and gathered together in a way that draws out every nuance.
The title poem is full of darkness, sinister in its use of anthropomorphism. This is a feature across the collection as Maguire humanises a number of different plants in a way that is always exceptional and surprising. As an idea, it shouldn’t work, but somehow Maguire manages to do it, with phrases as deft as “As simple/ as thoughtless as a bruise.” which have no slack.
Maguire’s use of language is sparse and her images tight and grounded in the little detail, drawing together comparisons that feel fresh and enlightening. In ‘Umbellularia californica’ lies one of the most exquisite descriptions of dusk I’ve ever read:
“absorbing the dusk
through its tall net
However, not all the poems are filled with such weighted pauses – the longer poem ‘Hibiscus’ is filled with energy as it hurtles through Marrakech on a motorbike, images whipping past, sensory detail piling one on top of the other in a smorgasbord of experiences.
We travel the world through the flora in this collection, and Maguire states that “memory is smell” in the wonderful ‘Cloves and Oranges’ where the sensory detail and sense of yearning for exotic adventures pierces the poetry like the narrator pierces the orange skin with the pointed cloves.
With every summer must come autumn, and ‘Colchicum (Autumn Crocus)’ marks a change in direction as the collection takes a turn with:
“Flayed by the rain,
they are litter-
Towards the end of the collection, the poems become more grounded in personal experience, particularly the excellent ‘Watershed’ which takes us on a journey of the effects of summer drought and the fear filters through, leaving us with a fresh sense of our reliance on the routines of nature and weather.
If you have a gardener in the family, this is an excellent gift. Or, you could just pretend and keep it for yourself. It is a collection I feel I will come back to again and again – indeed, it has already sown the seeds of a few sapling images I plan to use in my own poetry.