Book - The Pilgrim and the Star

Susan Omand takes a chance with a new collection of poetry, The Pilgrim and the Star by Ross Daniel Baker...

Am I the only one who plays “lucky dip” at the library or in a book shop? You know the thing surely – you stand in front of a shelf of books and just... pick one. Not because you’ve spent months researching the author or you’ve spent ages reading reviews trying to find something that will spark your interest and that you know you will enjoy, you just put your hand out and grab a book, taking a random chance on something new. Sometimes it really pays off and you discover a new author or style to look for, sometimes it really doesn’t and it quickly gets returned to the library or finds itself in the charity shop box, but it’s always interesting and refreshing to step outside your reading comfort zone now and again.

This was how I picked up The Pilgrim and the Star, a book of poetry by Ross Daniel Baker when I was on the hunt for something new to read. So how did this lucky dip pay off? The blurb for the collection says that it is inspired by nature and the Great Romantic poets and the poems themselves are grouped together in seasonal themes so that you can dip in to any one or follow the flow of the journey through the year. As with every collection some work much better than others. The majority of the poems are pretty though and do have that Wordsworth and Byron feel about them in style, sometimes working hard to maintain the classical form and rhyming structure. However, in my view, they tend to lack the substance, depth and dimension of those greats, appealing to the visual sense without evoking the mental imagery or eliciting the emotional response that is necessary for me to “connect” with a poem.

But there are a few real treats scattered through this chocolate box of shallow prettiness and these tend to be the ones that don’t try so hard to fit an accepted rhyming scheme so the emotion and imagery feels less forced and flows more easily, taking a less literal look at the world. One in particular is The Verdant Stairway which immediately caught my interest on the page by being written in triangular verses, with the first line of each stanza being a single word and growing in length line by line. This one also seemed much more richly descriptive and less “poetically flowery” than some of the others so I found I connected with it a lot more. To go back to the chocolate box analogy, this is the dark bitter chocolate rush after a surfeit of fondant crèmes and a wonderful find.

As a collection then, these are fine for a light relaxing read, maybe a book to pick up and dip into at bedtime when you don’t want anything too thought provoking or emotively powerful invading your dreams.

Image - Amazon

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