From Publishers Weekly
The sense of well-wroughtness generated by these poems, gathered from this Welsh poet's seven previous collections, suggests that peaceable British lyric observation should endure forever as the quiet foundation of all English-language poetry. After 30 years of steady publication and a lengthy stint teaching at Brigham Young University in the U.S., Norris demonstrates a clear development from the earliest Dylan Thomas-inspired poems, filled with archaic similes and phrasings, to the defter, largely pastoral later work. From "Ransoms" (1970) is the following line: "Around, the ring of hills wears light/ of morning like a steel helmet." In 1989's "A Sea in the Desert" is found this more open and musical observation: "What trick of the strengthening/ light, what angle of the tilting world/ to the sun, what is the alarm/ that sets the trees to work?" Norris's lines carry an insistent authority: "Winter drought, and a parched wind/ Roughens the mud. Wrapped in a parka,/ Leaning bleakly into the slack/ The blast misses as it screams over/ The blackthorn, I'm tramping a/ Chalk ditch from the downs." Along with the fineness of observation and economy of statement, however, there is also a sameness of stance and focus on the natural world. In this book, it's not hard to pick out a six good descriptions of a snowfall or a dozen deft phrases for the sunset. The new poems are rooted in a personal past and, read last, cast an illuminating light on preceding works.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The trick, to Norris, is to start from observation and move, in stately manner, directly to illumination. He walks in the "moonfields" of his native Wales, alert to the sharp, new-mown grass underfoot and to the thin protection of his slippers, feeling how the blackening shadows call him to awareness of the "comfort I can arrange / from darkness, / From summer ice." Often categorized as a nature poet, Norris is especially a poet of the fields and the garden, and the tension between mutable wildness and the desire for imperishable order is the hallmark of his work, both in subject and in form. The four-beat couplets in "Berries" are like trellises for the dense, enjambed lines to crawl over; in "Peaches," some lines are overweighted with meaning and resemble the branches of the heavily bearing tree they describe. Now that Norris has physically returned to Wales after many years in the U.S., American readers should welcome his complementary return here in this volume. Patricia Monaghan