Eleanor Rees’ latest collection, Blood Child, deals primarily with people and places, with Rees taking great care in establishing tone and atmosphere through skilfully painting romantic landscapes. To me, it seems that Rees’ poetry is much more concerned with creating images and aesthetic appeal rather than an exploration of subject matter or themes. Often the collection reads, and indeed feels, like prose with its varying narration and vivid descriptions.
The opening poem, “A Burial of Sight” begins quite strikingly in terms of its structure and layout. The lines range in length and positioning – some consisting of single words at the centre of the page, blurring the barriers of space between stanzas. Although this is initially interesting and attention grabbing, ultimately it makes for a quite frustrating experience, for me at least, particularly when reading aloud:
Sometimes there is another city,
light and wide,
shifting on continental plates-
ships that spread
The remainder of the collection generally adopts a much more conventional and uniform structure. It is important to note that aside from its form, “A Burial of Sight” indicates well what is to be expected from the rest of the collection with regard to Rees’ technical virtuosity.
Discerning in her word choice, the poet is sharp her rendering of sound and imagery. There is a sensuality in Rees’s poetry; sensations are beautifully and seductively illustrated. There is also a sense of movement in the work; she takes you on a narrative journey paved by her mastery of words:
My skin is heavy with moisture,
pricked with heat.
I eat at mud with my tongue.
Mineral rich salt
drips from my skin
puddling and slithery.
Words, metaphors and descriptive methods work hard in the poem. Often the use of repetition can become tedious and predictable, but in this poem Rees brings a comforting familiarity to her reader. The most enjoyable piece of this collection for me is the titular “Blood Child”, a prose poem that portrays a chilling, almost horror-like atmosphere. Rees’s imagery is vivid in every line. The repetition of the lines, “Blood drips from the mouth of the house/ Blood floods the dry seas of the moon” adds the familiarity mentioned earlier, and also adds structure to the piece with everything returning to these lines. These lines are repeated intermittently between the poem’s dark, suspenseful stanzas:
The storm glowers behind the outline like a tiger.
It roars but she cannot hear him.
The hallway is an empty blue. Books rattle in their cases.
Outside she stands like death. The doors closes in her face…
Some of the key features of Rees’s work are her uses of rhythm and sound by way of alliteration. She has a way of doing this effortlessly, so that it doesn’t jar the rest of the poem. For example, “Mainline Railway”, is composed of two-line stanzas reflecting the steady rhythm of a train, and the visual pattern of a track. This is best illustrated in the final lines:
waking in a stuff carriage,
an image of my room in their eye,
the tone of the city in their ear
in the thrust of the train’s rush
towards the sea and out of here.
Until recently, I shied away from reviewing poetry collections as I feared I wouldn’t “get it”. I had fuelled this fear by thinking that poetry is an art form that can only be enjoyed by those that are intellectual enough to grasp its dense concepts and philosophical standpoints. However, these concerns did not detract from my enjoyment of Blood Child. Perhaps there were ideas that were lost on me, which may be picked up by others, but personally, I enjoyed reading Rees’s poetry for the images, atmosphere and sensuality she creates, something of substance outwith the intellectual challenge.
Hamzah M. Hussain