How do you personify nature in a rich and striking way? You read ‘Falling Awake’..and take note.
This radiant collection from Alice Oswald presents the world around us using symbolic representations of life itself. Falling Awake, the winner of the Costa Poetry Award, 2016, is an anthology that is meant to be read slow, to be read with rhythm and more importantly, read aloud. When reciting these poems, it is clear Oswald wanted the reader to hear the swans’ hiss and the buzz of the bees because every time you mingle with onomatopoeia, you fall deeper into the true meaning of her verse.
Delicately placed, the construction of each poem lends itself to the intonation of every observation Oswald makes. Her choice of words draws the reader closer to nature:
This is the day the flies fall awake mid-sentence
and lie stunned on the window-sill shaking with speeches (…)
and somehow their wings which are little more than flakes
of dead skin
have carried them to this blackened disembodied question
What dirt shall we revisit today?
The cycle of life and death is a theme which weaves itself in and out of her poems, sometimes presented explicitly, but often it is the implied that encourages the reader to question such critical issues. The concept of falling is far from repetitive, instead she exposes the reader to the different contexts one can fall:
I’m going to flicker for a moment
and tell you the tale of a shadow
that falls at dusk (…)
Look when I walk
it’s like a pair of scissors thrown at me by the sun (…)
I hear the hiss of flowers closing their eyelids
Words complement one another in an appreciative, lyrical way aimed to charm the reader. There is a distinct sense of balance which translates, for the reader, as being at peace with the living world. Observation is clearly second nature to Alice Oswald because her work is rich in description. Oswald uses a magnifying glass to intensify her imagery; by the hand, she takes the reader on a journey of close proximity – without unsettling the equilibrium – she offers insight into worlds that exist and worlds that revolve around us
Reviewed by Yaz Dellicompagni ǀ @feastofverse
Based in Bimingham, England, Yaz is an infectious English teacher. Her mission: expose students to the poetic word. She marks poetry for an examination board and holds a masters qualification in teaching and learning. Yaz also facilitates our Feast of Verse Poetry Book Club. Find out more here.