A Sprig Of Yarrow, by Jim Ghedi, is the fourth publication put out by Ration Books. These pocket sized literary delights offer ‘small books to be read in short sittings’. They are a welcome diversion from their bulkier counterparts.
What we have here is a collection of poems and songs. Themes explored are often political but the focus is on community, how it has been fractured, and the enduring beauty of nature, despite contamination by man.
A few highlights:
Terrace Row is a powerful evocation of poverty in a former mining town. The voice is working class, dripping with anger. Characters are presented as clotted by resentment at the turn their lives have taken. The next generation festers or has left.
Sheaf & Field offers a similar story but set in an area blighted by the closure of its factories and forges. This is one of the longer poems, the lyrical cadence belying the bitterness entwined due to the subject matter.
Raven At Arbor Low looks at grief. Running through all these poems is an appreciation of the natural world, here taught by the person now being mourned.
“the unknown that you taught me to see,
in every moment.”
Stolen Ground is a song that tells of the scavengers who have uprooted a people settled for generations, moved on that more money may made by landowners.
“the landless weep on pastures cleared
as the sparrow rides the wind.”
The book is dedicated to Keith How, whose poem written during the first Covid lockdown prefaces the collection. This offers a reminder of the hopes we had then that things could change. What comes across in Ghedi’s work is how futile such thoughts proved. The wealthy and powerful will trample on all and any to maximise their profits, and always have.
Despite the somewhat depressing depiction of the working class people detailed, these poems and songs offer enduring hope in the form of nature. A prompt to look up and out, to walk gently and listen to the trees.