UNFOLDING LOVE AND LANDSCAPE: A review by Valerie Morton

ShippenShippen by Dawn Bauling
ISBN 978-1-909357-04-4
80 pp. £8.99, Indigo Dreams Publishing,
24 Forest Houses, Cookworthy Moor, Halwill,
Beaworthy, Devon EX21 5UU.


I will take the platinum pins
from my silent sea of silver hair
let its spirals tumble down
to the briar and bracken.
He will know my shadow.

These opening lines illustrate the harmony in Dawn Bauling’s highly accessible yet challenging new collection Shippen – harmony with her environment, her man, her children, her dog and most of all with herself. She is a poet at home in her own skin who, with carefully crafted words, transcends the ordinary and transports us through her detailed observations, into the vibrancy of a life well lived. She misses nothing. Her poems are deeply rooted in time and place.

This is a collection of personal yet universal love poems – gentle and lyrical, unique and unsentimental. Bauling has a distinctive way of placing herself and thus her readers into her own shoes and those of others. At times she brings a light touch to serious subjects, challenging the reader to pause and think and wonder.

Divided into four individual (FIELD, GATE, HEARTH, LOFT) yet linked sections this collection begins in the wide open spaces of FIELD with its breadth of possibility. We are standing at a crossroads of opportunity, poised on the edge of adventure wondering which exit to take. But Bauling opens the door of the shippen and lets us in with tender humour as in ‘Kiss Me Quick’:

Quick has no future or promise;
slow has a right to roam, to hold
without rush or squealing
brakes of a getaway car.
There must be time to taste
each subtle spice, separate, divine,
not pecked in a single bite.

and the passion of ‘Dry Stick’.

You thought I had no life
within. Such foolery.
I was a red fire lily
dancing on a bright wind
who would leave
pollen on your trousers,
for the want of a match.

With meticulous balance we are lead towards and through the GATE where Bauling skilfully turns everyday events into sensuous happenings. Small, intimate things matter as in ‘Morning Coffee Tasting’:

Unsure of your taste
I have sent you coffee
Monsoon Malabar and Black Java
with names to dance treacled
love notes on your tongue
and the sense of healing in the comforting ‘Winter Cupped’
Not a dark cup this year
not cloudy fluid
with the potential to scold
or choke in the chest.
A fine glass for toasting
brighter than orange
with russets on the tongue
long-lasting, warm-hearted.
and finally,
Loving you, though lost;
licking this first Christmas

The third section, HEARTH oozes with the warmth of arrival, of belonging, of a coming together in ‘Stones’

we are at times
as leaf and flame
but together
logan stones
balanced perfectly
and in And so the clock ticks’
We are not so young we have to touch,
not too familiar to have forgotten why
it is necessary, accepting the promise of slow
so something otherwise can treat us.

In the final section LOFT we are treated to the beautifully lyrical ‘Swan’.


I believe you.
Even the small stars
you drew down my back
a constellation,
not a promise blown
away in the slyness
of sudden twisters.
My dark was never
too deep
for your word.
So I keep it,
and learn to love
like a swan.
and in ‘Over the Table’:

When you write
you are private
like a clam
who is not a clam at all
but an oyster
quietly turning
a piece of sand
into a pearl.

Throughout this collection Bauling never loses touch with time or place – each poem is focussed on the importance of family and nature which are central to her work. This is a confident voice, subtle yet strong, wild yet gentle and most of all one which gives the reader time to breathe. Although rooted in the landscape of Devon and Cornwall, it surprises with flashes of another world as with ‘Henna on her Hands’, ‘Swallowing my Father’, or a ‘Consultation of Nails’. Bauling threads the world together and lays it before us and dotted about its map are some revealing haiku, like ‘Sentence’:

In this life’s sentence
I have been finding commas.
You are my full stop.

Shippen is a “waterfall of a gift” which the reader will want to revisit time after time.

Read more about the author and a selection of poems – this book can be ordered from Indigo Dreams Publishing.

The Poetry Kit Book of the Month

3 thoughts on “UNFOLDING LOVE AND LANDSCAPE: A review by Valerie Morton”

  1. Enjoyed the review. Thanks Valerie. Your comments and the excerpts gave me a sense of Dawn’s main themes. how she structures her collection and the sense of positiveness. Glad you included the haiku – it’s a little gem 🙂

  2. A really enjoyable review Valerie. You’ve got a light touch. Lovely to see you in the role of reviewer. x

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