E.E. Nobbs reviews
If We Could Speak Like Wolves
by Kim Moore
In the pamphlet If We Could Speak Like Wolves (Smith/Doorstep Books, 2012) most of Kim Moore's 20 poems are set in Cumbria and nearby places. Some of the people we meet are (or were) actual people, such as world-famous Graham Short in “The Master Engraver”. Often the speaker is an "I"; sometimes a lover is being addressed, as in the titular poem – where the speaker poses hard questions about intimacy and roles:
… if a mistake could be followed
by instant retribution and end with you
rolling over to expose the stubble and grace
of your throat, if it could be forgotten
the moment the wind changed…
Moore’s people are in relationships, in communities; they holiday in the Lake District, go picnicking, get picked up at pubs, and attend services where psychic artists dial up long-dead grandmas while the congregation sings Abba songs.
“In Praise of Arguing” is an ode-rush of adrenaline with the energy of a Beethoven overture. A couple are cohabitating; it’s probably their first year. The action is fast and furious:
And the vacuum cleaner flew
down the stairs like a song
and the hiking boots
along the landing.
I both sigh and giggle every time I read it. And the twist at the end is “glorious”.
There's the everyday mundane; there's murder and other tragedies - big and small (people drown, moths immolate on lamps). There's wry humour, wolves and fairy tales. And tall tales. Myths and mountain tops. Even the Titanic. There’s fog and trains and boats and tides – always the tides. And sheep. And unusual ways of getting to places
In only 20 poems (and none of them are long poems), Moore works her magic. Together they are like a hymn of praise for the gift of being alive. And of being part of a whole. Of a community.
She's a skilled teller of stories. Sometimes, the speaker takes on the role of bard, as in the benedictive poem, “The Rabbit and the Moon” with its "Let me tell you the story of a high, lonely place..."
What stands out for me is the musicality of all these poems: the lines are rhythmic, and the words dance, and echo off each other. They are technically impressive.
I have at least 15 favourite poems in this pamphlet: one of them is “Train Journey, Barrow to Sheffield”. This poem is (at least partly) about a train trip. It has seven verses, five lines per verse, all similar lengths - the poem looks like a train. I like attention to shape. The speaker first tells us what she does NOT like about the train, and her reasons are funny (ha/ha). In the fourth verse, the speaker acknowledges: "still I love the train, its sheer unstoppability,/ its relentless pressing on...".
Then she's questioning: "if the sheep aren't rounded up//will they stand and let the tide come in, because that's what sheep do, they don't save themselves". And suddenly, she’s relating details of a horrifying and tragic human event. We return to the hoped-for safety of the train; yet in the last line of the poem, a passenger is shouting: "I've got to find the sword." But I don’t want to spoil the surprise; so I'll say no more.
If We Could Speak Like Wolves is a joy to read and re-read.
E.E. Nobbs is a Canadian poet based in Prince Edward Island.