WINNER OF THE COSTA POETRY AWARD 2007
Jean Sprackland's third collection describes a world in free-fall. Chaos and calamity are at our shoulder, in the shape of fire and flood, ice-storm and hurricane; trains stand still, zoos are abandoned, migrating birds lose their way — all surfaces are unreliable, all territories unmapped.
These are poems that explore the ambivalence and dark unease of slippage and collapse, but they also carry a powerful sense of the miraculous made manifest amongst the ordinary: the mating of natterjack toads, ice on the beach ('dream stuff, with its own internal acoustic') or the 'fund of life' in a used contraceptive. Bracken may run wild across the planet 'waiting for the moment / to pounce on the accident / of the discarded match' but there are also the significant wonders of children and the natural beauty of the world they've inherited. Tilt is a collection of raw, distressed and beautiful poems, a hymn to the remarkable survival of things in the face of threat — for every degradation an epiphany, for every drowning a birth.
THE BIRKDALE NIGHTINGALE
(Bufo calamito — the Natterjack toad)
On Spring nights you can hear them
two miles away, calling their mates
to the breeding place, a wet slack in the dunes.
Lovers hiding nearby are surprised
by desperate music. One man searched all night
for a crashed spaceship.
For amphibians, they are terrible swimmers:
where it's tricky to get ashore, they drown.
By day they sleep in crevices under the boardwalk,
run like lizards from cover to cover
without the sense to leap when a gull snaps.
Yes, he can make himself fearsome,
inflating his lungs to double his size.
But cars on the coast road are not deterred.
She will lay a necklace of pearls in the reeds.
Next morning, a dog will run into the water and scatter them.
Or she'll spawn in a footprint filled with salt rain
that will dry to a crust in two days.
Still, when he calls her and climbs her
they are well designed. The nuptial pads on his thighs
velcro him to her back. She steadies beneath him.
The puddle brims with moonlight.
Everything leads to this.