Background Noises | Morag Smith
Background Noises lives in the intersections between nature, human lives and the rewilding of urban dereliction. It is inspired by the past, present and threatened future of the semi-derelict site of a historic psychiatric hospital in Renfrewshire, but goes beyond this factual history. The poems range from minute examinations of wildlife and its survival to the stories inherent in the ruined villas and gardens in the context of current pressures on human life and natural environments. Morag Smith celebrates the beauty of the dereliction, the need to remember all our stories and the need for green space from the early twentieth century to the present day.
‘Background noise is defined as “extraneous sound”, or “A person or thing considered...irrelevant or incidental”, but you’ll not find anything irrelevant or unimportant in these poems—here everything matters. What you will find is a brilliant, multilayered interrogation of landscape, architecture, so-called progress and, most of all, humanity. This is poetry doing its proper job: giving a voice to the past and foregrounding anything in danger of beng overlooked or lost. Though the pamphlet’s primary focus is a mental health facility—Dykebar Hospital— it’s about far more than that. It examines the intersection of natural and human history; local and global ecology; loss of identity and loss of environment. In these moving, stylistically wide-ranging poems Smith transforms those “background noises” into something stunning, important and timely. Nothing here is irrelevant or incidental—even the smallest of details is freighted with importance.’
‘Background Noises is a poetic document of place that meditates on abandonment and entropy, but equally on resilience and re-growth, finding dynamism among the dereliction. Inventive forms and attentive language reveal the many denizens of Dykebar; the past grows through the cracks of the present. The poems marvel at the tenacity of nature, the tenacity of being human. This is a very fine debut.’
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