Merryn Williams is impressed by Chris Considine’s poetry of self-sufficiency on a small island
This is a short sequence of poems about Looe Island, off the coast of Cornwall, where the author (I assume) lives part-time. It has been inhabited by the Romans and others, but it’s ‘untouched by the decades’ and we know little of its history. It sometimes hosts a wedding or a family gathering, but you can never be sure of getting on or off it. Crossings are tough; ‘the islanders were marooned three weeks last winter’. People grow their own food and raise their own animals. A particularly striking poem, ‘Pig-sitting on the island’, is ambivalent about man’s treatment of other species:
They’re almost full-grown, their death-day already decided on. How will she feel who held the smallest one, runt of the litter, wrapped up and shivering in her lap? Not long for this world – and this one’s all there is. Like summer butterflies they’ll never know cold, only the long days of island sun and showers, and the dependable heartbeat of the sea.
‘It’s important to set out for the island’, we’re told in the opening lines of this book. It keeps reminding us of the sea’s vast power and people’s struggle to feed themselves – realities which most of us in the developed world prefer to forget. Chris Considine is an impressive poet and this sequence – like Christmas dinner in the poem of that name where the family splash through freezing surf to gather around a loaded, lighted table – is something to celebrate:
In the darkening afternoon outside, the excluded sea and wind prowl round.