One of the first books I’ve been given the chance to read as part of my publishing internship with Fly on the Wall is Ricky Ray’s ‘The Sound of the Earth Singing to Herself’. I read a lot of environmental poetry and am hugely interested in the way the natural world is depicted, so I was really excited about this book.
Full of vivid images and unusual ways of depicting the natural world, this chapbook explores human pain as well as environmental damage with an extraordinary sense of care and compassion. The mortality of nature is entwined with that of the human. It feels intimate, yet universal; personal, yet planetary.
Ricky Ray’s poems are lyrical and reflect a world of vibrant agencies, both human and non-human. He connects his own chronic pain with that of the earth in a way that so movingly captures the experience of living on a damaged planet, in a damaged body. Some of them, like ‘So Tired Any Rest is Grace’, have a sorrowful brevity that, in so few words, suggest so much about a life:
When the cancer
bloomed like an angry
flower in her liver
she said thank you, I’m so tired,
I’ve been wondering
when you would arrive.
Help me out of these clothes,
would you, then
help me out of these bones.
Most of the poems though felt hopeful to me, suggesting that even in the midst of illness and pain we can find ways to heal – both ourselves and the planet we have all played a part in damaging.
I’d really recommend anyone interested in environmental poetry or poetry as a
source of healing to pre-order this book. I’ll leave the last words to Ricky and the end of his poem ‘A Walk in the Woods’ which was one of my favourites and closes the collection:
And the trees are full of conductors. Every time I look up
into a canopy, I see a mind at work. Whose, though?
Did the trees conjure birdsong? Or did the birds sing the trees
up and around them? Or did they meet in the middle,
treesong trilling an outlet in feathered throats?
At some point the birds lift up in unison and flock out of sight.
The leaves flap and fall like waves upon the water.
The estuary of the mind gives way to the amniotic ocean
and the sensation
is no longer
one of walking:
it’s one of being walked.
Pre-orders can be found here.