Monday 15 August 2022

Review by Paul Taylor-McCartney of "Scale" by Mina Gorji

Mina Gorji’s latest collection uses scale as its central theme to explore how life, in its many forms, finds a way to survive, if not flourish, in extreme conditions. In the title poem, the ‘map reveals so many stars … how cold it is between the galaxies, the snowdrops in the garden the morning after frost.’ Gorji goes in search of meaning in the cosmos – both macro and micro versions – using language to give shape and voice to often sublime forms, as in 'Message from an Asteroid' where ‘inside the earth, crusts of cobalt under oceans, on the skin, on the lips of submarine volcanoes.’ 

These are ecologically-centred poems in that they present organisms that are often invisible to the human eye but vital all the same, and whose presence is a timely reminder we must come to view ourselves as stewards of the planet if we are to survive the impact of decisions we make as its dominant species. So, it is into this world of extreme heat, arctic cold, floods and destructive volcanoes the reader is plunged, although Gorji’s methods are subtle when dealing with such topical material. 

The poetry of John Clare and Christina Rosetti are clear influences and Keats is detected in 'Owl' which ‘which glides across silence – slowing to a moment held – white wings steadying air.’ Humans themselves make the occasional appearance, presented as characters in harmony with nature ('After the Harvest,' 'Ice Age') or out of step with it, rather humorously depicted in 'Waiting for Snow' where the poet’s ‘Grandmother had never felt the snow before; she knew the touch of monsoon rain … before the shock of Edinburgh rain, soaking her saree with its cold and grey.’ 

It is a testament to Gorji’s many talents that she is able to create such depth of feeling with so few words – poems rarely last for more than a page – which is a comment about scale in itself. She implies that even a sparse arrangement of words has the power to convey the start and the end of time, the evolution and destruction of a single species, or the continuance of life for others that manage to adapt. There is also a sense that hope is somehow present – even in the most hopeless of places – and, it is this, the reader comes away with after reading Scale in its entirety and is all the richer for it. 

About the reviewer
Dr. Paul Taylor-McCartney is an author, researcher and lecture, with interests in dystopian studies, children’s literature and initial teacher education. His poetry, short fiction and academic articles have appeared in a range of notable UK and international publications including Aesthetica, The Birmingham Journal of Language and Literature, Writing in Practice (National Association of Writers in Education), Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine and Dyst: A literary Journal. He lives and works in Cornwall. You can find out more about him and his work by visiting

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