June English’s work has been compared to the poetry of Thomas Hardy for its range of mood and for the way she writes unflinchingly from experience. High praise indeed. But her poems are probably more accessible to the modern reader, and they have a personal directness that is all part of her unique voice. The touching humour of poems such as Make Do and Mend and Backside Up is counterpointed with the poignancy of poems such as Gathering Lilac and The Tree That Isn’t There:
Sometimes I stand at the bus stop,
near the beech tree that isn’t there,
listening to the wind that doesn’t stir,
waiting for you to arrive on a bus
that doesn’t come this way.
There’s Hardy-esque dialect (albeit Yorkshire) in poems such as Proper Peaky and Hearts and Flowers, and some vivid wartime memories – Home Front and Dover – 1940 for example. You could say there’s something for everyone – and like the poet’s Bunny Girl, you’ll keep finding bits of yourself, scattered among these pages.
The Sorcerer’s Ark is the second collection of poetry from June English (her first collection, Counting the Spots, was published by Acumen in 2000) and a fine collection it is, too. It spans a lifetime of experiences and emotions, with poems that are written with vivacity and honesty. I defy you not to be touched by them.