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Review - “By Tiny Twisting Ways” by Ian Davidson

Steve Spence

“By Tiny Twisting Ways” by Ian Davidson, pub. Aquifer. 67pp £10.00

Ian Davidson’s new collection is a meditation on the relationship between language, landscape and the human subject. His use mainly of seven syllable lines with stanzas of three or four lines, create an unusual rhythmic pattern and there’s a minimalist aspect which has a very physical yet lyric feel. I’m reminded at times of the poetry of Peter Larkin, a very different poet to Davidson, but one who also deals with ‘difficulty’ around the subject of landscape, language and a non-traditional approach. Here we have an extract from the long opening poem Lumps and Bumps, a poem which also touches on the subject of cancer and a successful recovery from the illness, a central motif in the collection:




          At sea all the broad beach a

          variegated sky’s final

          call to prayers stretched as the whale’s



          long in the sand and massive.

          Within encircling mountains,

          black faced sheep keeping watch,



          chase the economy like

          car wheels or the red hare through

          the reed beds. Pasture covers

          field systems


          and crocks of gold at varying

          depths. Everything is up in

          the air and deep water as

          a wave


          curls and lands, wiping its face

          in a surface of sand, it’s

          expression fleeting as a



          ready to make an entrance. Wave

          upon wave gathering then

          returning, altered, every



There’s an immersion in the landscape which gives an impression of inclusion, where visual patterning is allied to an economic underpinning and a sparse, descriptive aspect which is at once ‘pre-human’ and physically ‘itself’ while also having an aesthetic resonance which makes it simply good to read, to enjoy and ponder. I’ve only recently become acquainted with Davidson’s poetry and this fusing of the lyrical with the analytical seems to be a continuous aspect of his writing, a question of making a home in a harsh but real environment, not exactly an alternative to the contemporary capitalist world which seems to be falling about our ears but there is certainly a challenge in his environmental writing which presents a different worldview from that of our increasingly virtual society.


     Later on we get this from ’21. – That sunset trap’:  


          The sun melts the sea. At the

          horizon is a pool of

          gold that widens as it

          sets like liquid, a shining path.

          Silver then gold again, a

          ribbon of yellow gold takes

          the shape of the waves, light

          is all legs now becomes four

          transparent fingers, light breaks

          through a bank of cloud becomes

         metallic. This communal

         experience. At the base

         of the cloud bank more fiery

         as if a furnace is

         breaking the surface of slag.


Again, there’s a description of an environment which is lyrical and celebratory yet which is combined with a hint towards the industrial and a (later) suggestion of war (‘military formation’), modern technology and imprisonment (‘cage’). This is rich territory which is diverse and multiple in meaning while retaining a sense of the lyric and the exploratory, a poetry which is quiet and pleasurable to read while also being quietly effective and political.


Copyright © Steve Spence, 2021 

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