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La Loba Speaks For Wolf by Susan Taylor (Burning Eye Books)

La Loba Speaks For Wolf by Susan Taylor (Burning Eye Books)

Burning Eye Books are a Bristol based setup that seem mainly in business to produce written documentation of Performance Poetry and Performance Poets. This is probably not an entirely accurate description but my limited engagement with these publications would seem to suggest this is largely the case. Susan Taylor is an accomplished poet (she has produced around ten books, many of these with South West publishers) who combines written scripts with ‘spoken word’ performances. Her material is not always the sort of poetry that I find most interesting but I was taken with the subject in this case as I know she has performed some of these poems and this is where it can come alive. On reading this collection I’ve come to the conclusion that although the poems do work ‘on the page’ they are essentially a prompt for a live performance and I’m looking forward to hearing them ‘in situ’ so to speak.

          The Song Beneath the Song

          Come hear the song La Loba sings –

          A song she sings, so mountains ring

          And as they ring, they rearrange

          The rising wind that drives all change.

          It was her voice out on the air

          That caused a wolf to leap at her,

          Though not to harm a hair of her,

          But just to be in care of her.

          The wolf returns to mountainside,

          He and La Loba, side by side.

          Protective charms in Loba’s arms

          Transcend the harm beneath the harms.

          Her spirit lights on butterflytes,

          Calls up the stream beneath the stream.

          The blue and green of Gaia’s scheme

          Empowers the dream beneath the dream.

          Come here the song the lobos sing –

          The song they sing, so mountains ring

          And as they ring, they rearrange

          The wind beneath the winds of change.

There’s a concern with ecology here which is something central to Taylor’s poetry and is in tune with a lot of current thinking about environmental issues and rewilding. The regular rhythms may feel deceptively simple but they have a spell-like influence which carries throughout the collection. There are a variety of formal devices and there’s also a mix of information and intoxicating repetition which I imagine comes across even more strongly ‘in performance.’ From ‘Wolven’ we get the following:

          Only wolf

          nails it

          in high flying notes,

          igniting

          the ashen face of Venus.

          To howl wolven,

          howl for joy

          and the wonder of being

          a link of sound

          between earth and sky.

     There may be something predictable and comforting about these verses but they are also skilful, challenging and imaginative. I’m slightly reminded here of Richard Price’s The Owner of the Sea: 3 Inuit Stories Retold which touches on similar issues and themes if in a more scatological framework. La Loba Speaks for Wolf includes an introduction which suggests a context which is part lament, part mythology and part science-based.

Steve Spence 14th September 2022

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