Who Travels Down This Narrow Road by Henry Pluckrose
Reviewed by Caroline Vero

This third collection of poetry from local poet Henry Pluckrose brings a clear picture of the simplicity of life he treasured away from the academic world of his teaching, lecturing and prolific book-writing career.  With his ‘relaxed verse’ it seems he has left a legacy that is designed to continue to teach his own philosophy of learning through the natural experiences of life to yet another generation.  Henry had a huge respect for words and in ‘Words of Time’ notes that the manner of their delivery also tells something of the speaker.

His poems reveal his love of nature and in ‘Star-Talk’ shows us a village ‘wrapped in a violet shawl of night’ and he seems to be invigorated by thunder and lightning, telling us we have ‘nature’s final movement,  the symphony of storm’ .  Taking us through the seasons noting the changes, he sees that ‘the river steals the colour to itself’ and that birds have ‘Gentle Confrontation’ in ‘spontaneous dance’.

Whilst this book is divided into sections, when Henry Pluckrose  chooses to talk about ‘Place’ his poems are more his response to place, always looking behind the façade to history and imagination.  In ‘Corfe’ he entreats us to imagine the castle’s past ‘look up and free your mind’, and in ‘Hook’ he is almost convinced ‘the stones moved…..seawards’.  Here is a man who never left behind the childhood imagination that would leave him seeing ‘serpents….writhe and wrestle’ in the dim moonlight, where most of us would see simply tree roots.

In some of these poems we have a juxtaposition of the ideas of evolution and nature with religious belief, never set against each other but often expressed together, and it seems for him there is no dilemma in appreciating each ‘marvel of evolution’ yet still waiting for sunrise as ‘a sign of an Eternal Pulse’.  He talks of ‘spirits of Llangwm long gone’ in the shadow of the Baptist Chapel, but I rather think he prefers the church he imagines whilst looking down from Bradbury Rings where

‘Two lines of tall beech trees unite’ – their branches –
‘resembling towering vaults of medieval church,
No plainsong echoes through this aisle
Only the raucous cry of wheeling evening rooks
Tell vespers.’

Henry Pluckrose spent a boyhood steeped in ‘nature’s lore’ which in his later years appear to have imprinted itself within him.  Indeed the memories stirred by a visit to a boyhood haunt return him ‘to a pleasured boyhood’, and he seemed to enjoy the idea of spirits who travel from ‘the vibrant land of the quick into the shadowlands of memory’.
Who Travels Down This Narrow Road – Henry Pluckrose   Matador 2012  £7.99