#Review: The Poet Spells Her Name by Sarah Connor – A Remarkable Collection of Poetry


Sarah Connor’s new collection of poetry, The Poet Spells Her Name (Black Bough Poetry, 2023), is a remarkable exploration of the human experience. The poems are full of wonder, honesty, and beauty, and they offer readers a journey through landscapes both external and internal.

One of the standout pieces, Mapping Stars, navigates the trails of life, offering whimsical insights into the paths we choose and the futures they hold. The sense of wonder in this poem is palpable, inviting readers to contemplate their own journeys.

Driving Home captures the imagination with its sparse yet vivid lines that weave a tapestry of night and avian imagery. These elements reappear throughout the collection, forming a motif that lends an enchanting thread to the poet’s work.

Corn Dolly strikes a personal chord within me; its repeated use of “I” and its list-like structure create a montage of rich images that resonate deeply. It leaves me pondering the possibility of accompanying soundtracks to enhance the experience.

After speaks to the hearts of parents with empty nests or those who carry the weight of lost children, imbuing their pain with a sense of equity. The opening lines, “After my daughter left, / I dreamed of wolves,” encapsulate the emotional journey of the poem.

Themes of nature and mortality recur throughout the collection, delivered with a raw abruptness that mirrors the natural order. There’s a brutal honesty in lines like “The magpie’s body / softened by death / one wing dangling / leaving a faint trail” that leaves an indelible mark.

Rooting draws us deeper into the natural world, proclaiming the strength of trees lies in their roots. Conversely, Things I have kept in my pocket, juxtaposes this natural imagery and the synthetic, highlighting the convergence of humanity and nature. Sarah Connor’s ability to craft piercing lines, as demonstrated in “I have swallowed needles,” is both intriguing and captivating, pulling me in closer.

While reading, I occasionally find a sense of familiarity, not in a derivative way, but in the wholesome and relatable nature of the poems. Echoes of contemporary poets like David Hanlon and Kyla Houbolt resonate, adding to the collection’s richness. These echoes offer a reference point for new readers, assuring them that this book is a worthy addition to their shelves.

In Silence emerges as my personal favourite, encapsulating the joy and connection shared between two individuals. Yet, beneath its surface simplicity lies a commentary on the fleeting nature of time. While, O, my cartographer shifts towards confessional poetry, as she lays bare her vulnerabilities in lines that resonate deeply.

The recurring motif of the fox returns in She feeds the foxes, drawing us into the poet’s confessions, much like the animals are drawn by the scent of her. City of rivers encapsulates the essence of the collection, where nature and human creations intertwine and potentially drown us in their beauty. It’s a fitting metaphor for the captivating experience readers are in for.

The craftsmanship displayed in each line is evident, a testament to the poet’s skill and Matthew M. C. Smith’s careful editing. The sequence of poems including: Ash Die-back; Heat; Hunza Valley Bridge; and Peacock offers diverse journeys that stand out, even amidst the brilliance of the entire collection. These poems allow the writer to explore and expand on ideas without a single word going to waste.

Throughout, I sense an impermanence, reflecting the intertwining relationship between poetry and nature. Just as nature endures, so does the poet’s voice. “I am broken / re-made, / broken again, / mended,” encapsulates the essence of the human spirit captured within these pages.

In conclusion, The Poet Spells Her Name is a collection that resonates with authenticity and artistry. Sarah Connor’s words offer readers a journey through landscapes both external and internal, while Matthew M. C. Smith’s careful curation guides us through every poignant peak and contemplative valley. This collection is an ode to the transient nature of life, and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

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