4 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

It has been a strange old world over the past five years, and then at the beginning of 2020 things took a whole different turn once again. Rising infections of disease from China crossed borders and continents and in what seemed like no time at all, we were in the midst of a global pandemic. COVID-19 was here and it wasn’t going anywhere soon.

Life as we had known it would change like nothing we had ever know before,

Different people coped in many different ways, there was generally a good spirit between communities and neighbours, but the stresses of the situation as further lockdowns that happened would begin to build. As these changes unsettled Cowen he began to pay heed to the things around him that never changed, things that anchored him to where he lived and became a metaphorical and literal support for him.

What he observed on his government approved outside excursions he began to write about what he had seen. Some of the poems were a scrawl on a page that scarcely changed from that first draft and others he would think about as sleep evaded him. Looking framed the poetry and the words demanded more observations. These are the tiny moments that he saw around him.

There it hung, in stillness, blackness,
Right there, for a moment, alone
As though arranged entirely for us;
A perfect disk of polished bone

The poems in this collection feel polarised, on one hand, there are poems about starlings and hawks carrying on with their lives as though nothing had changed in the world. Moments of the natural world gave comfort to Cowen as he coped in his own way with the pandemic. There are then other poems that are raw and emotional responses to the subjects that affected him and his family. I didn’t realise that the author and artist had not met before this collaboration, as what they have compiled is a beautiful book. I particularly like the art that Hayes has created for the book. The images are strong and evocative without being bleak.

Three Favourite Poems
Last Breaths
Self Isolating
Family Trees

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