Sep 4 2022
Poetry review – COUNTRY OF ARRIVAL: Wendy French is moved by Hubert Moore’s collection speaking for the displaced and persecuted
Country of Arrival is another hard-hitting, heart-searching masterpiece from Hubert Moore. Moore has eleven other poetry books to his name and each one builds on the themes and dilemmas of the last with a quiet persistence. He brings his concern for refugees and escapees into our homes and makes us think deeply about the destruction of so many lives. His books are a wake-up call for all of us.
Sometimes you hear beyond your own heart breaking the silences between the punch and punch of breaking waves. (“A Silent Insistence”)
The writing in this book is masterful. Hubert Moore has a gift of saying so much in so few words. And the title is apt since the book is divided into five sections each of which reminisces in one way or anther on arriving, either in a new country or on a new stage of life.
The first section is called, “Splash off Backwards” and the poems here are a lead-in to Moore’s main thoughts and concerns as a preliminary to the main section of the book. “At The Pond’s Edge” reflects that
Maybe you never change, you don’t move on from when you first do watering. You used to kneel beside the pond and press your can against its surface till it let you in.
and this is exactly what these poems do: they let you in to the thoughts and musings of a well established and respected poet. In just a few words, he can reach his reader’s psyche and have them treading in a refugee’s shoes with all the uncertainty that that brings.
It is difficult to name a favourite poem as there are so many that speak to the varying moods of the reader. However a favourite of mine is “Extracts”. It is universal in its meaning and the words go far beyond the end of the line. The second stanza is relevant to any meaningful poem and today we need poems that embrace the world and all that is going on.
Only that the paper I’m writing on absorbs my ink so everyone who stoops to read from it inhales its understanding, is infected by it, breathes its breath.
Hubert Moore s not a preacher. He is a quiet teller of real stories. His work is not embellished. It does not have to be. He has worked with many refugees and he feels compelled to tell their stories. This is a book that should be on every school and university syllabus in order to reach a wider audience. It is mainly through education that we may begin to understand the complexity and unfairness of the world.
We have your seas in almost every room. Green sea, blue sea, almost fiery sea and each sea as your paint imagines it has an overloaded boat too deep in it and people with pins for heads huddled tiny in the swell. (“Sea Pictures” for Nazrin)
Moore applies a painterly skill to every poem so that the colours, the emotions, are rich and deep. On first hearing a poem the listener may think they have understood it; but it is often not until a subsequent hearing that the poem becomes clear and complete. Complex emotions resonate.
You thought you’d learned to play the game dictators play. Hide and seek of course though Hide and Not Be Found is where you kept your special skill… (“Snakes and Ladders”)
Moore’s poems stand out from those of many others who write on related subjects because his stories are learned from first-hand experience. He has worked with refugees and victims of torture for many years and carries the plight of injustice and inhumane actions with him. Moore and his wife have opened their house as a refuge over a long period of time and so he has the knowledge to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. He is trusted with their stories and what better way than this collection to send out a message to the rest of us to hear.
The second section of the book, “Incomers” concerns the welcome we give the refugees arriving in small dinghies. The first poem is dedicated to Moore’s grandfather and recalls the warm welcome Moore always received as a child when visiting. He then makes a contrast to the kinds of welcome other people receive. The disquiet of the world inhabits this section of the book.
Section three concentrates on the effect of the pandemic and lock-down and the isolation of some individuals and in care homes. The section starts cleverly with a reflection on Edward Thomas.
In the field between woods in the gap between hoping and sickness they have nothing but now to love with. (“In a Field Between Woods”)
And “Walking Out” has the very powerful closing lines
Every day the death toll rises People get rarer and more beautiful.
I’m flagging up Moore’s book as a book of political poetry. Priti Patel could do well to read it but she is unlikely to! And I wonder how this book will fare in fifty years’ time when people are looking back to the time of illegal trafficking and exploitation of the scared. Will generations to come wonder what the governments of the day were doing to respond to people crossing dangerous waters in small boats, having paid large sums of money to criminal gangs? Were detention camps really an appropriate greeting when they arrived in Britain? Poets have a duty, I think, to raise awareness of current situations. The wonderful, now deceased, Evan Boland said that from the domestic comes the political. Moore’s work is a political tour-de-force as in his humble way he devotes his talents to wider world-wide issues but from a domestic viewpoint
Once inside your room, inside your table-lamp’s kind glow, you learn to mean the words your poem speaks for you, your lines go sauntering on… (“The Only Place”)