This is Ben Batten’s second collection of poetry. I reviewed his first, ‘Newlyn Eye’ in a dialect verse of my own, celebrating perhaps the specifically Cornish/Westcountry feel of the poems, which spoke to me particularly.
I’m writing in prose about ‘Landlocked’, which should not be taken to indicate that I find any less delight in it or any less of the local feel.
But it’s a book I need to describe more – seriously, appropriately because in it Ben opens his heart to us very directly. Cornwall is there; reflections on the art of poetry itself are there; some of the poems are very funny, even some of the more serious ones.
Very many of them are about, or were written directly for, Ben’s late wife Sue. Cancer took her from him, and he writes of his loss, his pain, his anger, his grief. Poets do that, it’s how we make our way through the dark as well as through the light.
Humming softly beneath the pain and sorrow, though, are insights expressed in strong words, not of resignation exactly but of vision; of how all the things that come into all our lives, even loss, can be endured, and more than endured; triumphed over.
This book brought me to tears many times, not only because I have also lost my life’s partner, not only because of what Ben is writing about, but because of how he writes it.
This is a true poet, unafraid to use even his personal pain to convey the experience of love and hope to his readers.
Here is the sestet from a sonnet written in the garden of Anne Hathaway’s cottage:
‘But nothing lasts forever, and we know
That golden days will pass, and winter’s sorrows
come: we shall face them, if it must be so,
And walk together through all our tomorrows.
Yet, in this summer garden, dearest wife,
It is as if all nature whispers Life