Introduction – by Norman S. Jackson
It was during my association with the magazine ‘Lincolnshire Writers’, the precursor of the Lincolnshire and Humberside Arts magazine ‘Proof’, that I first became aware of Susan Taylor’s poetry. Here were fresh, vibrant and evocative poems, made with a rare skill and achieving a lyrical beauty of the highest order. As issue succeeded issue to include work from this young poet, it was established that her first contributions were not flashes in a literary pan and that an even, yet progressive poetic talent had arrived.
‘Woods long brown, green now
Fresh-drilled fields shine against the green
where ivy runs; blue water for finches
darting like fishes on predestined paths.
Sudden as a firework
that beech spurts a garland
of fluted song.’
Although it can be clearly seen that her poems have a powerful pastoral commitment, Susan Taylor is not the new Clare, Wordsworth or the new anybody. Her poetry is unique and her own personification.
An affinity with the countryside and things natural has always found response within any poet’s being, and to reflect this often emotive response is the very core of such a poet’s work. How difficult is the fulfilment, for to follow the pastoral traditions of the Masters; Clare, Burns, Tennyson, Wordsworth, Hardy, recognising their pedantry as well as their genius is surely one of the rockiest roads in literature. Yet this is just the road that most aspiring poets deliberately choose, and love of nature, joy in being can be all too easily lost in cliche, triteness and striving for concious poetic effect; that which one contemporary magazine rejects as ‘townee sentimentalising about the countryside’. So most aspiring poets fall at the first editorial in-tray, their poems cast in the mould of dreary uniformity and mimicry, stifled at birth by their author’s inarticulate longings to be a poet.
In my opinion only an outstanding talent could survive on the rockroad of pastoral poetry today, and this volume evidences that Susan Taylor’s talent is outstanding. She brings to her work a delicacy and skill that is as natural a the life-style she loves, a perception that records with truth her joy in the countryside and in her own being.
‘Larks hang light music out of clouds
And dove songs ring like phones nobody answers.’
She observes with the true poet’s eye and faithful to the traditions of her craft, writing of timeless and unchanging nature, she yet remains in the very best sense of the word modern.
‘Miles above, a Vulcan vapours
feather chasing star
where a red moon rises
twin to a giant poppy sun
kindling in power station ashes’.
She is a poet of today and tomorrow, employing familiar images; and whilst her poems harvest together moments with flowers, fields of grain and the gentle populations of nature, you will find also fast cars, dancing, folk and pop music. Her poems have distinctive elegance and her economies of language only serve to accentuate her vision.
From a lifetime of love for and involvement with poetry, I have ideal conceptions (perhaps prejudices?) that elevate in my esteem Hardy, De La Mare, Betjeman and others as masters of their art, and their lines come easily to mind in moments of reflection. Yet amongst the loveliest lines that I know –
‘Settled on a wire beside my kitchen window
just now a swallow’s head is full of feathers
but, when she’s sorted out her spiky wings,
when the last quill’s greased
She’ll put her foot down on the wind;
chance should be a swallow, knowing when to come
and when to go.’
And these lines are by Susan Taylor.