Tuesday 12 January 2021

Review by Neil Fulwood of "Lake 32" by JLM Morton

Graced with stunning cover art by Naomi Walker, Lake 32 collects nineteen poems written during Morton’s year-long residency at a former gravel pit since converted to a man-made lake in the Cotswold Water Park - “a world of wayward crayfish and self-help magpies,” as she describes it in the field note that serves as the volume’s introduction.

Morton’s engagement with nature, landscape and ecosystem is tactile and immersive, the poems thrumming with life and activity even as they hymn the underrated pleasures of sanctuary and solitude. 

Modernity (“the drenching squalls of camper vans and gravel trucks”) is a nagging presence, however, at the periphery of this world, the resulting tension elevating these poems above the merely pastoral. “Suppose there was a tree” Morton speculates in "Courage," the second poem in the pamphlet, “that did not burn, / but instead contained a fire / that lit the taper of our hopes.”

Morton’s poetics are confident, whether she’s distilling the contrast between white violet and nettle into the sharp minimalism of a haiku in "Lakegram" or crafting an onomatopoeic account of the ecosystem in "Hibernal Solstice, Soundscape." Experimentalism never gets in the way of immediacy, though, and Morton’s gift for shimmering yet unpretentious language gifts the reader with stanzas like this (from "Night Swimming"):

           Let’s break the stars on the surface
           with the lightness of bodies in water,
           remembering this celestial night
           when we met with the best of us.

Lake 32 is a lyrical, intelligent and life-affirming pamphlet that deserves a wide readership. Lake 32 is off the A419 and deserves a visit.

About the reviewer
Neil Fulwood was born in Nottingham, where he still lives and works. He is the author of two poetry collections with Shoestring Press, No Avoiding It and Can’t Take Me Anywhere, with a third forthcoming in June 2021. 

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