Slate Rising Alison Hill
Indigo Dreams Publishing, £7.99
Alison Hill’s debut collection, Slate Rising is one of Indigo Dreams’ latest offerings. Hill’s pamphlet, Peppercorn Rent came out in 2008 from Flarestack, shortly after she set up Rhythm and Muse, a poetry and music event in Kingston-upon-Thames.
Several years ago I was delighted to feature her on The Poetry Shed with her poem The Women of Dorich House. Since then her poem To a Girl on Platform Three which appears in Slate Rising was nominated by South Poetry for the Forward Prize 2012 for Best Single Poem and a couple of other poems in the collection have been commended in the Yeovil Literary Prize and the Grace Dieu Writers’ Circle competition.
Hill provides a catalogue of female characters whose strong sense of identity, place and history are revealed to the reader, their lives and journeys unfolding in separate stories but with an interconnectedness that draws them together. “I am no woman, every woman” is the essence of the collection. There’s a timelessness, a self-perpetuating cycle of questioning femininity and expectation as these women try to find their way in the world as the past, present and future converge.
In the opening poem, Loose Change Hill’s woman “gives her the wet hills stitched/ with dry stone contours” the beauty of this is juxtaposed with the penultimate line when she moves to what seems the ordinary and every day, “She gave her the price of a bus ticket,” then draws up with the final line, “but she bargained on an open return”. In To a Girl on Platform Three Hill continues in this vein with a mother’s observation of her young daughter as she sees her in years to come looking back on this moment as her mother looks on it now:
“I see her in years to come, when she finds the dress
tossed at the back of her wardrobe, as she smiles
in fleeting recognition and passes it on.”
It is gentle, understated and universal.
In Rapunzel she “is girlhood without the games, / skipping without the rope”, in Stitching the Light, she “worked against the clock,/ defying its hands to steal her light”, this theme is picked up later in Blush where she “liked to watch the light/ shifting through the delphiniums”. These are at once fragile poems that tell tales of strength and triumph, her characters have delicate bones but filled with what Thoreau called “the marrow of life”.
Perhaps the heart of the collection is in the poem Awakening. It is Eve’s actions and the thousands of years of sisterhood that come to the fore in this book and it is the voices of these women whether daughters, wives, lovers, mothers, spinsters that ring out whilst at the same time trying to cast off their societal status.
I saw the sculpture before the name;
body of a woman playful as a kitten.
Mid-roll in abandon, legs in freefall
stomach splayed for all to see.
Sinuous, graceful, eyes closed against
the world, she holds the apples aloft
Mine, all mine, she says.
For me, this awaited for collection from Hill is like the lines in Silver Lip Conch
“I have sheltered here
Now excavated from the seams of the poet, Slate Rising finds its voice.
Alison is appearing at the following events:
Fourth Friday, Poetry Café London, Friday 26 September, 7.30pm
Loose Muse, Poetry Café London, Wednesday 12 November, 8pm