At a recent workshop I read from Winter Migrants, a collection by Tom Pickard. I saw the title and cover in an email from Carcanet, the publishers, and knew I would have to get the book. A short sequence and individual poems bookend a selection from Fiends Fell Journals.
This is a poetry-diary, or haibun, composed over the decade Pickard lived alone on the wind-blown North Pennines. The two dozen entries cover the period June 2003 – February 2004. They vary in length from a few lines to a page. Here is an example, showing Pickard’s sharp vision and economy of language:
Late at night, without a coat and the wind still raging, an old woman from the cottage hospital in Alston, banging on the deserted mortuary window, demanding entry – convinced she is home.
Water drapes over worn flattened rocks,
smooth as curtains.
Birds appear frequently in the Journal – an alert kestrel, a growking raven, snipes, curlews – and in the title sequence – the Solway estuary where winter migrants gather / in long black lines.
This is also from Fiends Fell Journals:
criss-crosses the lashing syke,
fast, with sudden thaw,
its spiky tread sunk
in unscuffed snow
and hungry as death
no inkling of urgency
in its measured step
close, almost overlapping,
at the water’s edge