“What The Owl Taught Me” by Annest Gwilym a poetry book review by Mashaal Sajid

What the Owl Taught Me by Annest Gwilym | North of Oxford
What The Owl Taught Me

“What the owl taught me” is Annest Gwilym’s first full-length Poetry collection published by Lapwing Publications in 2020. Having read Annest’s debut poetry chapbook “Surfacing”, I looked forward to delve into this collection and my anticipation was rewarded. A bestiary of sorts,  “what the owl taught me” is a perfect read for anyone who approaches themes of nature and wildlife with adoration and cautious reverence. 

Annest depicts the spirit of living creatures from mythological birds, sea urchin and moths to endangered critters in these 40 Poems. The collection is hallmarked with quaint verses giving human characteristics to animals like: “scuffle for a crumb on the street, sinewy legs dance and pounce”, “upright head, a Roman nose”, “shimmied and played chase with the ladies”, “underwater acrobats”, “as your mocking laughter ripples”, “he keeps vigil, forages, shovels snow”, and “in his robe of sun he cartwheels”.

Perhaps due to my biased fascination with moths, but mostly because of these opening lines “I rode through the liquid night, as a melon-slice moon crested a bank of cloud”, Last Night I Became An Emperor Moth is my favourite poem in this collection. It takes you on a first person view of a moth’s night journey, flying over moor and sea, to end in a desire filled moment with the anticipation of some obscure ferine mating ritual: “There to wait for my lover; my musk strong, / it will draw him from miles. He will come, / wings taut with blood. Antennae fresh as ferns.”

Some poems are heavy with environmentalist concern and themes of extinction. Golden child is a concrete poem about the endangered Raja Undulate sting ray, the speaker describes the beauty of the creature calling her ‘beauty queen of rays’, the voice breaks to distressed prayer towards the end: “Golden child, I pray you don’t go the way of the golden toad”. “The Last Woolly Mammoth” paints a macabre and mournful picture of the extinction of the last Woolly mammoths on Wrangel Island. Tinted with grief and loss, it features a mother child duo, the child after witnessing his mother’s death surrenders to loneliness and demise. The poem holds bitter lessons about climate crisis and environmentally harmful practices : “People have taken bones and tusks, of his dead tribe, wear his family’s coats on their backs.”

What The Owl Taught Me contains many brilliant Poems, among these, the ones that stood out to me the most are: “Last Night I Became An Emperor Moth”, “Domesticated”, “Barn Owl”, “The Nightmare Bird”, “The Moon Hedgehog”, and “Wasp’s Nest”. Their language is fresh and alive with poignant oft eerie imagery like “The ugly planet hangs like a mutilated moon”, “he fled through looms of leaves, fingered by spiders”, “moon-bitten, storm struck eater of stars, and dreams, it’s scream strangles the night “, “silken killer moves like water”, and “when I see you I could burst into flower”

What the owl taught me is a stirring read that captures your attention throughout. The collection is a testimony to Annest’s poetic prowess. Anyone with an interest in bestiaries, a love for wildlife and their share of environmentalist concerns would thoroughly enjoy this book.

 

Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Mashaal Sajid

Book Review: “Surfacing” by Annest Gwilym  (review by Mashaal Sajid)

Bio: Author of two books of poetry: Surfacing (2018) and What the Owl Taught Me (2020), both published by Lapwing Poetry. Annest has been published in various literary journals and anthologies, both online and in print. She has been placed in writing competitions, winning one. She lives on the coast of north west Wales with her rescue dog.

Book Review: “Surfacing” by Annest Gwilym (review by Mashaal Sajid)

Poetry Pamphlet Review: Surfacing by Annest Gwilym | Sammi Loves Books
Surfacing by Annest Gwilym

A dauntless and personal debut poetry collection by Annest Gwilym. Surfacing was published in 2018 by Lapwing Publications. Annest is based in North Wales, near Snowdonia National Park. Her writing has been widely published in literary journals and anthologies. She has been placed in competitions, winning one in recent years and she was the editor of the former webzine Nine Muses Poetry.

Surfacing is a collection of poems all unified by themes dealing with mental illness, loneliness and anguish. One distinguishing feature of this collection is the speaker’s tenacity and spirit and how their vulnerability allows us to feel for and have a closer look into the internal world of someone struggling with mental illness. 

The book cover is symbolic of light at the end of the tunnel or in this case a glimmer at the end of a passage under a dark canopied forest. The 19 poems all with unique poignant titles are arranged into three parts, each denoting a shift in the atmosphere which is most evident in ‘Bright little pill’ and ‘Beach pottery mosaic’. The language is at times abrupt,flowing with underwater references and seascapes at other times like “The sea outside your house slyly slides past mine”, “My heart beats sea-surged”, and “even my broken glass can become sea treasure”. 

Evocative imagery paired with visuals of animals and the natural world world like “Before the Storm irises Black Star lilies”, “In a forest full of hemlock and wolfsbane”, “a sweet soil shelter” transports you to a welsh landscape and reminded me of Arthur Rackham’s illustrations. The first part heavy with imagery that invokes loneliness, desolation and being distant from the world, paired with everyday visuals like “percussion of washing machine”, “blinds are drawn day doesn’t break there”, “the cutlery is mismatched”, “slow as a Sunday afternoon” becomes haunting. 

The poems in the second part deal with fear, paranoia, treatment and drowsy liminal hospital rooms. The poem ‘Last night’ echoes Lady Lazarus. This part has a very dream heavy and sleep induced atmosphere, Some imagery that really stood out is “If they shut me in an attic I could fly out on singed wings”, “whaled woman lies beached drowning lungs broadcast”, “people move like smoke”.


In the third part of the collection the language becomes more grounded in reality and the atmosphere becomes warmer, the visuals calm and solitary but familiar as we move towards the end the tone shifts to one of hope. “The house curls in on itself”, “festive glow of pub and bistro”, “the steaming parcel a warm hand in mine”, “the sun’s yolk descends behind the island where I picked wild strawberries” are some examples. 

Life Underwater is my favorite Poem in Surfacing, it has a beautiful form and makes brilliant use of references and imagery. “Like Sisyphus I roll each jellied day one after the other, Without Orpheus to sing me back” this line leaves me astounded every time. 
Surfacing takes you on an intense reflective and emotive journey which ends for the reader in a warm and hopeful way.





Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Mashaal Sajid

Bio: Author of two books of poetry: Surfacing (2018) and What the Owl Taught Me (2020), both published by Lapwing Poetry. Annest has been published in various literary journals and anthologies, both online and in print. She has been placed in writing competitions, winning one. She lives on the coast of north west Wales with her rescue dog.  





Spotlight on the Poetry Question & Chris Margolin

If you’re a poet or writer, you need exposure.  Especially, if you’re an independent writer, or work or run a small press.  Luckily, for us, there is a website that has been expanding exponentially the last few years giving us more exposure to the best independent poets and writers out there today.   The Poetry Question provides the concept of asking “How will you Poetry today?”  The man behind the beginnings of the Poetry Question is Chris Margolin.

He shares a passion for visualizing the future of poetry and giving a voice to poets.  Whether it would be the unique interview in which you answer the poetry questions on influences, favorite books, authors, influences.  Detailed info on why these works or writers have deemed such an influence on a writer. The site has been excellent and expanding their team on reviewing Poetry Chapbooks and novels & novellas.  

Within the last year, Chris has worked hard on adding a small press to give another avenue for writers to put out chapbooks.    So, with that introduction, we shall ask a few questions to Chris Margolin of “the Poetry Question”   http://thepoetryquestion.com

Hi Chris, thanks for giving us at Fevers of the Mind the opportunity to learn more about The Poetry Question and the exciting future of the site.

Thank you for having me! I’m a fan of Fevers of the Mind, so this is an exciting opportunity for me. I’m honored.

  1.  First off Chris, when did you come up with the idea of the Poetry Question? The original concept?  When was the moment that hit you and said “Hey I need to help small press poets and self-published poets”?

I’ve written a lot about the foundation of The Poetry Question, but I appreciate that your question focuses on Small Press Poetry and Self-Published Poetry. The site went through so many different iterations. It was an educational site – I’ve taught for almost 20 years – in the early days. Then it was a music review site. Then it was a general book review site. Then I started going to The Portland Poetry Slam in Portland, Oregon. My first night there was like finding a new religion. My introduction couldn’t have been more epic: Clementine von Radics, Alex Dang, Brenna Twohey, and the legendary Andrea Gibson. I bought every book on the table that night. That was it. These were stapled together like the zines I used to buy in high school. They were beautiful. And they needed to be seen. There wasn’t much of a choice at that point. Voices needed to be heard, and I couldn’t find a website that focused solely on small press or self-published poetry. So, it seemed like the obvious choice and direction.

  •  I know that you have decided to put out a few chapbooks, how has that experience been like that for you? What about going into the Press business has been rewarding, and what has been more challenging?

This is one of the most rewarding, important, and scary accomplishments in my life. I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve always just been on the review side of things. I had dreamt about putting out other people’s poetry, but never thought it made sense until last year. Our daily readership went up faster than I could have ever imagined, and it just felt right. Holding a submission period, and knowing that people – without the use of Submittable – were actually sending me their words was jaw-dropping. I never expected to get submissions. I had over 75 in a month. It was such a validation of what I’d been working toward, and so humbling to know that so many would trust us with their manuscripts. We are just a few weeks from the release date (Jan 15) for both Jennifer Roche and Van G. Garrett’s respective books, The Synonym Tables, and SCRAP. They have been so kind as I stumble through this process. Can’t wait to see what happens!          

  •  I’d like to know more about the Power of Poetry section of the site. What about this section really has been a huge help with especially younger writers to understand how to be an effective writer, and how you can work at your craft to expand even when it seems the writing world is against you?

Isn’t the writing world always against us? Look, the reality is that we a lot of us started as bedroom poets and writers. We wrote middle school novels and song lyrics and poetry and tried to either hide it from everyone or share it with the world. But those words meant everything to us. They were our therapy. Fortunately, it is still our therapy. But that looks so different for everyone, and I wanted to hear their stories. I wanted everyone to hear their stories. I don’t really know if there’s an “effective writer.” I think there is an effectiveness in everything we put down on paper. It might not resonate with everyone, but it may change someone’s life.

  •  This has been a challenging year for everyone, and I’m sure for you this hasn’t been an exception. During such a year of darkness, where have you found the small beams of light that has given you a creative uplift for your ideas with TPQ?

This is a softball question. I sign into my twitter account every day, and I get to read the works of hundreds of poets each week. I get to ask “How will you Poetry today” and hope that maybe that will remind someone to write or submit or edit or read or share or whatever they can do to spread the word of Small Press Poetry. I get to be the bullhorn for poets who might not have an outlet to share their work. That’s one hell of a beam of light.

  •  Please give us more info on how to reach your site, your social media, what one needs to do to submit to the Poetry Question for a review of their new book & more. Also, when do you expect your first chapbooks to be released, any hints on what to expect from these?

Everyone can find us at thepoetryquestion.com. If you’re interested in submitting a book for review, there is a link provided on the site. We don’t get through everything that comes our way, but we work hard to review all that we can. The first two chapbooks will be released on January 15th, 2021. Jennifer Roche’s The Synonym Tables tackles the changing of language over the last 75 years. With a deep focus on our current world issues, this one feels more poignant now more than ever. Van G. Garrett’s SCRAP takes you round by round through perseverance and the art of survival. He is a legend, and I am blown away that he was ever interested in submitting to TPQ.

  • Any shout outs you’d like to give to any poets, small press, co-workers with TPQ?

This is a tricky one for me as there are so many poets and presses I’d love to shout out. Here are a few poets to keep in your sights: Chris Butler, Taylor Byas, Beth Gordon, Danielle Rose, and Jason Crawford are all beyond inspiring right now.

Chris Margolin is the founder and EiC of The Poetry Question, the only site in the world to focus solely on small press and self-published poetry reviews. Beyond his work in poetry he has taught high school and middle school English for almost 20 years. He lives in Vancouver,Washington with his wife, daughter, two dogs, and seven chickens

Books to Read in 2021: On Becoming(Aesthetic Evolution of the Rising Ancestor) by Hokis

Full title: OnBecoming (Aesthetic Evolution of the Rising Ancestor)

A poetic memoir by Hokis. 

Imagine being a child (a young girl) adopted, unsure about yourself

Because you don’t have all the answers.   Where did my ancestors come from?

Why do I react the way I do?  Where does my perseverance come from to get through? When traumatic adversities come into play as a teenager into womanhood, where do I turn to?

This collection of personal poetry tells the reader through the wonders of imagery on how realizations, finding the reasons, fighting the stresses, and knowing when to persevere & not give in when it is easiest to do so.  

Hokis’ OnBecoming is a wonderful read of linkable poems that connects thematically the traumas (political, familial, toxic masculinity & sexual violence) and turns to feminism & ancestral guidance to help overcome these detours in life.   You will feel shattered with her as you turn through the pages, but in the end you become whole.  Ultimately to feel resilient to the monsters we all face daily.

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