Sep 3 2021
Poetry review – OWL SONGS: Wendy French is grateful for the humanity which runs through Hubert Moore’s poetry
‘Poetry can tell us what human beings are. It can tell us why we stumble and fall and how, miraculously, we stand up.’ (Mayo Angelou, a woman of colour and activist. Died 2014 ). This quotation is pertinent to much of Hubert Moore’s poetry, both past and present, for his poems have never been more relevant to the plight of many people in the world than they are today.
Owl Songs by Hubert Moore is ‘my book with the delightful cover.’ The cover with the dancing safety pins makes me smile and the colours are like vibrant poems themselves. Fifty-three poems, so well-crafted I want to pick the book up, cradle it and devour all the words that are there too. The poems vary in content from quirky and humorous to the wistful, more contemplative and seriously thoughtful. All are equally engaging to the reader. Moore never fails to capture me and take me into his world. Here is an extract from “Crock”
Broken handles finish off most cups but this one took up measuring bird food. Now you find bits of it in pots aerating soil.
So much is said in the last line. Moore has the ability to use everyday ordinariness and turn it into something special, something to be remembered in times to come. He doesn’t force the reader into his way of thinking but leaves space for the reader to add their own interpretation of all that they have read. This a gift for any reader.
In ‘’The long way round” Moore tells us
…The quickest safest way can’t understand , spins round, configurates, configurates.
It is such use of everyday language that must have made Moore a very special teacher of English. He has the foresight to see beyond a looking glass and so to reflect what he sees and knows while being able to look beyond it. There are no pretences.
I know an ambulance can’t hear but this one wailing down our road has caught a note of what I’m playing over lunch, Hummel’s Trumpet Concerto in E flat. (“The Two Things”)
Every time I hear an ambulance now these lines come back to me. There is a rhythm in these lines and a cadence that fit so well with this trumpet concerto and the sad notes from an ambulance wailing down the road. This would be a far better satisfactory mode of warning for the general public.
The book is divided into six sections. My favourite section, if I had to choose, would be Section 5, subtitled, “Touching Distance”. These poems have a sadness about them incorporating distant things/ people/days gone.
Just to tell you after 18 years I’ve given your books away. Yes, Karl Popper, whose mind you loved, and half hoping there’s nobody, half there’s somebody somewhere who’ll read them as warmly as you. (“The Love of Books”)
Moore has the gift of touching on all our hopes, inconsistencies, idiosyncrasies and longings. This tender, love poem to his wife, dead now for 18 years, has the compassion that many of us have felt or feel after a loved one’s death. His gift of communication is profound.
The fourth section, “Almost nibbled through”, also shows Moore at his best: that is, doing what he passionately believes in, writing about the right of every living person to be heard and have justice. He has worked with refugees and asylum seekers and listened to their stories.
The blank white space between the objects was a silent scream they’d often heard but hadn’t drawn on yet. (“What the Children draw”)
Moore is a master in line endings that keep the reader in suspense, ‘between, silent, heard and yet,’ What is the blank space between? What was silent? How can the word heard be so near to silent with all its different meanings? And to end the poem with ‘yet’ – as if in a foreboding of what still awaits these children– sparks a feeling of terror.
In all of Moore’s books there are poems written about the oppression of others. These poems are so relevant to all that is going on now in Afghanistan. We owe it the people of this war-zone to read this poem and reflect on other lives, other humans.
… Like but unlike The nibbling at the now 88- year-old process of the law, the right of everyone to justice without (the word is almost nibbled through) delay. (“Nibbling”)
Moore’s poetry is in the street. There is no pretentiousness. He demonstrates a sense of humour, an enjoyment of living on the one hand while on the other he has the ability to show compassion with fresh invigorating poems that can move a reader to tears. Although the poems vary in content, the style is consistent throughout, short poems with short lines all being connected through the fragility of being human.
Owl Songs covers a range of emotions and is a good read from cover to cover in one sitting. Thank you Shoestring Press for this new thoughtful, impressive book and a good size for travelling around with as well!