Linda France’s galvanising tenth collection comprises poems written from, and into, the fabric of the sixth mass extinction. In this uncanny, yet deeply familiar world, beginnings end and endings begin, and we are tasked, as readers, to think beyond the limitations of our perception and enter the throes of deep, geological time ‘where glaciers / once scarred the rock, inscribing their own fall.’ Here, we leap across histories both real and imagined – from the medieval book of hours to a twenty-first century Climate Citizens’ Assembly – and experience the inter-connected nature of emergency.
Rooted in fieldwork and close observation, the collection calls for a rewilding of the self as well as the landscape – a momentous task, that, France demonstrates, can only be achieved through tenderness: whether as an octopus mother dissipating into food for her young, or with the gentle patience of a gardener. Ultimately, and crucially, Startling offers a radical manifesto for kindness, utilising poetry to refresh our individual and collective imaginations, and bring about a necessary shift in cultural consciousness that counteracts the paralysis of alarm – before it’s too late.
As the poet astutely asserts: ‘who of us / is ever ready?’
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