#BookReview: LE Francis, ‘This Spell of Song & Star’ (Bottlecap Press, 2023)


The collection is written in three sections, phases focused on magic, music, and the passage of the seasons in the scenic pacific northwest; & at the heart of it all is a simple glance.

LE Francis is a writer, visual artist, & musician living in the pacific northwest. She is a former arts journalist & the current fiction editor of Sage Cigarettes Magazine. She is a co-host & editor of the Ghost in the Magazine podcast.

Within the pages of This Spell of Song & Star, LE Francis presents a collection that is as expansive as it is visually striking. The lines ‘Revelation before distortion, / a shift from heel to toe, foot / & foreleg, stars at the harvest; / solar crushed under / a Dionysian staggered step’ exemplify the poet’s talent for creating imagery that is both ethereal and grounded. Through these evocative words, Francis takes the reader on a journey through celestial realms and earthly experiences, intertwining the cosmic and the human in a captivating dance of words.

Through the poet’s masterful use of language, the reader is invited to witness the revelation before distortion, a moment of clarity and transcendence before the inevitable unravelling.

The imagery of falling, spanning three thousand miles, evokes a sense of descent, as if hurtling through space and time. Yet, amidst this descent, the stars are depicted as stitches, delicately woven threads connecting the fabric of the universe, representing both the interconnectedness of existence and the wounds that bind us.

Throughout the collection, the imagery remains vivid and visceral, allowing the reader to feel the speaker’s emotional turmoil. The broken bow smile and eyes like mercury in Alembic depict a love interest who holds immense power over the speaker’s heart. The speaker’s admission that this person came the closest to their ‘rattling death’ highlights the intensity of the connection and the profound impact it had on their existence.

‘& the heart is a star, the heart is a reactor, the heart
is secret fire, & she aches as a pitiful galaxy sings,
gravity working on the strong wall of his chest;’

In these captivating lines, the poet explores the heart as a symbol of extraordinary power and profound emotion. By likening the heart to a star, a reactor, and secret fire, the poet highlights its boundless energy and hidden intensity. This imagery conveys the heart’s ability to ignite and sustain powerful emotions, illuminating the vast depths of human experience. The mention of aching as a pitiful galaxy sings speaks to the heart’s vulnerability and its resonance with cosmic forces. The imagery of gravity working on the strong wall of his chest portrays the internal struggle between strength and vulnerability within the speaker. Through these evocative metaphors, the poet captures the inherent beauty and emotional depth that reside within the human heart.

‘the mountains moved to throat your echo
& I was sage & sulfur & pine, I was an ear to hear
your name high in the hills — did you hear it?’

In this quote, the poet presents a grounded moment amidst the expansiveness of the collection. The mention of the mountains moving to throat the echo creates a vivid image of a powerful, natural landscape responding to the speaker’s presence. The use of sensory details like sage, sulphur, and pine further grounds the scene, evoking the scents and textures of the environment. The speaker’s identification as an ear to hear the name reverberating in the hills adds a sense of connection and attentiveness.

This grounded moment serves as a contrast to the larger themes and cosmic imagery that have been prevalent in the collection thus far. It brings the reader back to the tangible world, highlighting the intersection of the personal and the natural. Amidst the vastness of the collection, this quote provides a moment of intimate connection and presence.

In This Spell of Song & Star, LE Francis has crafted a mesmerising collection that transports readers to celestial realms while grounding them in the beauty of earthly experiences. With poetic mastery, Francis weaves together vivid imagery, evoking both the ethereal and the visceral.

The collection’s exploration of love, vulnerability, and the power of the human heart resonates deeply, inviting readers to immerse themselves in the captivating dance of words. From the revelation before distortion to the delicate stitches of stars, each poem unveils a new facet of existence, reminding us of the interconnectedness of all things. With its striking imagery and profound emotional depth, This Spell of Song & Star is a collection that deserves to be savoured and celebrated, a testament to the transformative power of poetry.

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