I don’t profess to be a poetry buff, I wonder whether this is because I spent too long hearing my father say: Pah, that isn’t a poem: poems rhyme.
Whilst these day I don’t subscribe to that theory, I often find myself having read a poem wondering whether I have missed the point or the subtle references.
So when I was asked if I had read Peter Reid’s ‘A Scattering’ I mumbled something about it being ‘on the list’ and then resolved to buy it. I did and I went directly to the poem which takes its title from book. I read it and I thought it was touching (obviously still worrying that I had missed the nuances).
Because I tend to be a bit hasty I thought – job done. Shortly after, in another conversation, it became clear that the poem wasn’t a one-off and that it sits within the context of the poems before and after. Oppps! right, better do it justice I thought. So I read it and I was moved, I don’t proclaim to have understand the deft touches that won the book the awards and plaudits that it received, although even from my level of appreciation I thought it was worthy of praise.
The book is a tribute to his wife and describes the painful journey from illness through to bereavement and grief. And I was engaged enough and looked up what other thought of the work, funnily enough I had missed the point a bit the title A Scattering does not relate to scattering his wife’s ash (I thought it was a metaphor)- from the Guardian [A Scattering makes one think of a scattering of ashes, but not so: the title poem describes the way elephants perform a kind of obsequy for their dead by “hook[ing] up bones with their trunks and chuck[ing] them this way and that way”; the animals’ ponderous bulk “makes them the very / embodiment of grief, while the play of their trunks / lends sprezzatura”. That slightly waggish “sprezzatura” is a typical Reid flourish.]. Oh well, I still thought it was great and well worth recommending, not obviously for the act of scattering but for the description of the emotion of love and loss which are touching and disarming .
Here is what a professional thought: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2009/mar/07/a-scattering-christopher-reid-review