Cora Greenhill’s The Point of Waking has more than a whiff of D.H. Lawrence and that is no bad thing. She draws upon female saints, goddesses, mythology, circle dances and Christian worship as part of the backdrop to her book. Cretan agriculture has been in decline for some decades now and she registers the changes. A profusion of herbs and flowers, sheep stuck at a well bottom, women toiling in the garden, displaced people and creatures, populate the book’s foreground and give it a wide-eyed focus on contemporary Crete.
Greenhill’s poems explore the wild places and natural world of Crete in a deliciously sensual and lived way. Her suggestive vocabulary and cultural accretions energise moments of being and life’s cycles to produce a pungent and elemental poetry.
The slub and slap of the waves were only
a restless ally to my toss and turn
that clammy night, and dawn had a dull veneer.
Stubbornly aching back and blear
from broken sleep, still I stumbled to the water,
as I had resolved, to swim. On surfacing
I catch a flash, a splinter of sea, a glint
like glass in air. Then, alchemically distilling
his perky form from black pumice, bright fisher king
surveys his day – with me alighting in it.
Her poems are wonderfully grounded in the physical, the working and dancing body. She reveals a pointed picture of modern Crete with its multifarious and changing tourism, migrants and refugees from Africa, Serbia, Pakistan, and is alert to both ritual and the stories of labouring men and women as they harvest olives, herbs and other crops. A poem rich in detail about a Pakistani illegal, who walked through Iran to Greece and hides in the mountains ends: ‘The thyme is on fire, seething / with bees’.
The raw and cooked are nudged along through nuanced and succulent language. The poems probe, elevate and mark boundaries.
The yellows: rabbit brush, cliff rose and snakeweed.
Browns were onions, oak bark and tea.
Deep red was juniper, but most precious of all
was a pink from a shrub called purple bee.
These grains were so few, they were kept in a skull
of a grasshopper the wind had spun in. And we’d ask
and ask, what were rabbits, what were bees,
what was a snake, and what the colour of grass?
I am proud to have published several of these sensual and deeply felt poems. They are quirky and live on in the memory.
David Caddy 13th August 2014