D A Prince finds good things in Caroline Squire’s prize-winning pamphlet collection.

 

 apple tree

An Apple Tree Spouts Philosophy
by Caroline Squire
Ward Wood Publishing
£3

 

The title poem won the inaugural (2011) Lumen/Camden competition, judged by Carol Ann Duffy. This competition not only discovers good poetry – all competitions aim to do that – but, uniquely, raises money for the Cold Weather Shelters in Camden and Kings Cross. This is poetry making something happen, and doing it through a sustained commitment that also includes readings in the Shelters.

The competition prize is pamphlet publication. It can be risky offering publication on the basis of a single poem but this time it works. The title poem is the strongest, but it is supported by the consistency of tone through the remainder of the pamphlet.  If the use of ‘philosophy’ in the title suggests an abstract argument with higher thought then you should forget that idea: this is a light-hearted, joyful collection, with some of the faults of a first pamphlet (a need for final revising in one or two poems) but also with all the energy of a new writer.

Humour runs through it as Squire engages with the semi-urban natural world, and delights in involving it with her own life. She gives us A bumble bee/ bounces low and clumsily… and bird song more/ than equal to the ring-road hum.  She knows to slip in a new idea under the surface of a poem, as in ‘Bird on skin’ –

Waiting for a stunned bird to wake
as it lies on my palm, it occurs to me
that we come from a long chain

of copying errors, simple adaptations
such as the first mouth –

‘The wind tries on the washing’, ‘An apple tree spouts philosophy in an office car park’; she can write tempting titles and communicates her own sense of everyday pleasures.  These include wordplay, and a lightness of rhythm that mirrors the numerous birds and insects with which she shares her space. No eco-agenda here, simply a genuine delight in the living world, and words.

If you are wondering what the apple tree’s philosophy is, it’s simple: despite indifference to its autumn crop it is a lucky seed, a happily ignored/ sapling left to establish in a meadow … which in its turn has become a business park.  Occasionally someone notices its fruit but most don’t: however –

…I fancy
I shall still be here when they’ve re-located, growing my bark
around the wire fence like a grin.

 Simple, visual, and the sort of poetry you might share with a non-poetry reading friend.  It’s a good collection that proves the pleasure to be found in poetry and to encourage wider readership.