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Wherever We Live Now
By Elizabeth Rimmer

   
 


"Here is another impressive book by an author who lives in Stirling. A full cover photograph of the grasslands and river near Stirling, backed by the Ochil hills, declares this poet's landscape and ecology interests.

It begins decisively with a poem about the Famine Ship Dunbrody, in Ireland, movingly aware of the migrants' history and the calamities that can befall them.

Response to such calamity is by means of myth: Irish and Scottish, taking in Zen and Catholicism, and ranging from as far as Shetland, Orkney or Andalusia.

The book's last 20 pages are taken up with Eurydice Rising, a sustained and versatile reading of the great Orpheus myth which appears in various forms in Northern and Southern Europe.

In Rimmer's version, Eurydice "is not dead or stolen by fairies, she is mad" while Orpheus needs "to come to a sound understanding of who he is, and set Eurydice free."

The 15 varied poems in this accomplished sequence cover music (What the Harp Said: "I am a high maintenance mistress"), the muse, Shetland fishing, Orpheus and the Elf King, or poetry: 'Ayad, remember Orpheus / playing before the Faery King, / on bagpipes, lyre or Breton harp, / the notes of sorrow, notes of joy, and notes / of peace, while Hell falls silent.'

Then comes Persephone ("I don't deny that he can play a bit") and the final Eurydice Rising, in which Orpheus and his bride find resolution: 'and then, the fairytale conclusion: / he finds beyond the garden gate, / in the orchard, sunlit Eurydice.

The remaining poems of Wherever We Live Now complement Eurydice Rising, covering, as they do, incidents of family life, visions and places of myth or history.

There's A Doll for Lucy about the Orkney Venus, an early doll or figurine.
There's a poem about Little Fawn Waterfall on the Dukes Pass at Aberfoyle.
There are midsummer haiku, an autumn equinox poem, a Welsh Englyn, or Washday Morning, or The Voice of the Carnyx, or Christmas: 'I mark the whiskered outgrowths / of blackberries and whin, of hollows / where primroses will flavour spring / with sunlight and honey.

Yet the poet can also be historical in the Green Cliffs of Moher, or political in Visit Scotland: 'Dungavel makes a grim landlady. / corseted with steel, her flinty face / edge with fat curlers of barbed wire.

She can be religious in Glendalough, lyrical in Birch Tree Englyn, and mythological in India's Alchemy, where a woman is dyeing cloth with traditional roots, and: 'Silk drinks up the sap of leaf and flower, / colours different every time, and shapes / a ghostly faded permanence like memory, / like what our hearts are steeped in.

The poems all have this kind of resonance that makes you want to read on, and reminds you that there are more good poets around than you might think."

- Sally Evans, Stirling Observer



"Elizabeth Rimmer looks intently at the world: 'A stealth of snowfall / dizzying into the dark, drops / a boa on a boundary wall...' This is musical and often startling writing, geo-poetry at its best. The past stands in amongst the present, with people from the fringes of Scotland living on in shipwrecks and ruined stone buildings. They are joined by characters from myth, notably Orpheus, and brought into the current with shrewd observations on social injustices and the contradictions of modern Scotland."

- Northwords Now


"Elizabeth Rimmer's poetry is connected to the earth. Calling herself 'a poet, gardener and river-watcher', this Liverpool-born writer likes to describe ephemeral moments in nature. Her poems are like puzzles or mosaics; each image is a piece of a larger picture. In I said, she sensuously describes oranges: 'sharp and sweet and bitter and hot, / as gold as guineas and sunlight'. Her sensitive ear locates gaps and distances, noise and silences, as seen in Celtic Island Monastery: 'Air is full of humming bees / and the long still space where prayer was'. She is best when her images are both imaginative and ironic. In Visit Scotland, she speaks of asylum seekers contained at Dungavel, who is 'a grim landlady, corseted in steel, her flinty face'. The poem ends on a note of humility: 'You asked so little when you came ...Scotland could not even manage that.'

Most of Wherever We Live Now describes the natural environment, but the collection closes with a re-telling of a well-known narrative, the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Though engaging, there is a sense that Rimmer is hiding behind these story lines. One wishes that Rimmer would end on a personal note with more wistful and lyrical poems about her experiences."

- Theresa Munoz, Scottish Review of Books

 

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