Pilgrim's Flower by Rachael Boast

Book Review by Galen O'Hanlon | 02 Dec 2013
Book title: Pilgrim's Flower
Author: Rachael Boast

Rachael Boast’s first collection, Sidereal, won the Forward Prize for best debut and the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry Prize, so her second has a lot to live up to. Here, the verse is quiet, confident, and measured. These are outings in which we begin with the everyday (stepping into a lift, slinking around a graveyard), and we end up watching as the moment slips and dissolves into something more transcendent. Transcendence comes in all forms – from an annunciation (there was an angel in the lift, too), to a scattering of starlings disappearing into the sky above Balmerino Abbey, ‘un-blackening at the narrowest angle / of themselves.’

To that un-blackening, Bolshoy Fountain adds ‘love unmaking itself,’ and then, in After Sappho, love is ‘a moon too new to be seen’ – a case of un-whitening, as it were. All this unmaking, remaking, blackening and whitening happens at the threshold of one moment and the next, of one state of understanding and another. This is where Boast marks out her ground – clearest in Songs, where a poem is not pristine and light-filled like a diamond, but dark and powerful as coal catching fire: ‘the poet entices light from dark / by the pressure of thought and its spark.' [Galen O'Hanlon]

Out now, published by Picador, RRP £9.99