Come Walk with Me: Poems Reflecting Walks Around Devon
by Annie Jenkin
25 poems ~ Color Artwork ~ 50 pages
8 ½’’ x 5 ½’’ Saddle-wire stitched
To Order: Amazon.com
Reviewed by Michael Escoubas
History records that many accomplished people have been inveterate walkers. Such notables include: Aristotle, Charles Dickens, Henry David Thoreau, and naturalist John Muir, among others too numerous to list. All were more-or-less addicted to striding their environs with alacrity. About this obsession, Muir is recorded as saying, “Walking was often the only way to access the subject of my writing and passion.”
Add Annie Jenkin to the list. In a recent conversation with the poet, she said to me, “Standing (or sitting), watching and listening restores my equilibrium. Many people walk but don't stop. I need to stop to access nature’s energy. To do this I need to be mindfully aware of what I see, observe and feel inside of me.”
This disarmingly simple statement is something of a credo for Annie Jenkin. Her debut collection Come Walk with Me: Poems Reflecting Walks Around Devon, bears witness to ways the natural world has energized her life. Jenkin, believes that half the fun of walking is pausing to allow nature to take up residence, thus restoring her spirit.
A Word About Style
Jenkin crafts her poems in clear, precise lines, something like walking. She favors verse libre, for its freedom and flexibility. It has been said that free verse isn’t free! Jenkin pays close attention to lineage, cadence, internal rhyme, and other poetic devices. The resulting product is engaging without getting too “chummy.” Her poems are designed to draw attention to the beauty around her. To this end there is a certain self-effacement about her work. As if to say, Don’t look at me, look at everything else!
A Word About Aesthetics
The volume is attractively produced by Thompson Press India Limited. Printed on high quality glossy stock, seven full color photographs enhance (but do not overwhelm) the poems. Pictures include: a cherry blossom bush, a field of bluebells, a butterfly perched on a pale green leaf, wildflowers native to Devon, and streams coursing through sun-shadowed woodlands.
Walking with Annie Jenkin through the Seasons
We learn much about the poet and her philosophy of poetry from “Pleasurable Pastime,” the lead poem. As a life-long resident of Plymouth (in the province of Devon) she wears the sea like a comfortable garment. It speaks to her as a companion who understands her needs. One gets the feeling that to be absent from the sea and its environs would be the cruelest of punishments:
When my anchor drifts
I slip on my boots
and take a long-awaited walk
tramping through narrow lanes.
Like sensitive spirits before her, the details of nature give rise to the restorative power of spring:
Passing bottle-green ivy
and pale shoots of nettle
below budding blackthorn.
Admiring how purple periwinkle
and vivid wild violet colours
clash with golden gorse
telling us spring is finally here!
In the following stanza, note the density of language, and the poet’s use of tools such as sibilance and alliteration, as well as the long “a” sounds resembling the actions of the sea:
My heart soars
as I taste the tangy sea air
blowing towards me.
It’s exhilarating to see
sprawling rocks stitched
to the sea by a stream
of endless white surf,
row upon row trying
to take hold of the shore
fray and slip away.
Read superficially, these poems may resonate as “just another collection of ‘nature’ poems.” However, there is another level to Jenkin’s work. Poems such as “Devon’s Wild Walkway,” show the poet’s powers of observation and hearing. These offer an important truth: collectively people need fellowship. A bevy of feathery friends meets Jenkin, cavorting amid their “swoops” and “squawks.” “Tribute,” an ode to an ancient beech tree, suggests qualities of longevity and resilience.
“July in Devon,” moves the reader into summer, where:
Like chorus girls
pale green frills of fir trees
wave gaily in morning breezes,
skirts lifting to reveal hundreds
of spindly legs, stretching
back in the deep darkness.
In other summer poems, “Seagulls benignly perch on high rocks / like spectators at the ringside / poised and ready to take action.” // “A kestrel glides on the wind / feathers of bright russet and black / outstretched, streamlined sweeping / over September’s yellow gorse.” //
“Autumn’s Arrival,” ushers in the season with a flourish:
Beyond a faded five-bar gate
honey-coloured grasses shimmer
and rattle in the warm wind.
This poem is replete with the aroma of buzzards, (Peee-u), a “rickety bridge” and “sunlight splinters on river ripples.”
Even winter takes its share of glory, “Hidden gems reveal themselves / among naked branches.” // You won’t want to miss Jenkin’s depiction of “nut hatches nestling in holes,” and the plethora of other aviary life, who “walk wrapped in nature’s shawl / awed by her wondrous display.” //
Do yourself a favor, accept Annie Jenkin’s invitation to “Come Walk with Me,” around Devon. Enjoy the colorful canvas of flowers, hedgerows, insects, birds, and animals painted by her poems and offered as a loving gift to her fortunate readers.