Life's Wonders: collated by Rhianna Levi, Black Pear Press
Rhianna Levi began her Worcestershire Poet Laureate tenure in June 2022. During this time she has worked closely with the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Charity team to promote wellbeing, joy and belonging through the written and spoken word. The focus of this anthology on ‘Life’s Wonders’ is a response to the adversities that people have experienced, particularly in recent years. It is during times of struggle that human beings find their inner strength and many of the contributions in this anthology reflect on the small victories that make for a happier and more fulfilling life. For every copy that is sold, a donation will go to Worcester Acute Hospitals Charity.
In her poem ‘Ruminant’, Linea Jantz writes “Time stops for no man / but it can pause” and that is exactly what the poems in this anthology do - they pause to let us stand back from the everyday so that we can see and appreciate the little things that often go unnoticed from a new perspective.
For Jantz, it is a moment to “follow slight tracks of deer / into the forest / one perfect footprint / a busy day’s parenthesis.” For other contributors to this selection, it is the experience of heading outside into the wind, the bark of a dog that lives down the street, the act of peeling a clementine, a flower blooming in an oasis of concrete, shade offered by a lemon tree or the simple act of naming one’s favourite things. As Kevin Brooke explains in ‘Favourite Little Things’: “Little things, not enormous things, /are often the most wonderful things.” Talking of little things, I was particularly struck by the descriptive power of Jan Hedger’s poem ‘Grasshopper in Calvados’. Here’s the opening stanza:
What a dapper little chap he is,
in his jacket of copper veined,
enamelled exoskeleton of neon green,
like he’d jumped straight out from
a gentlemen’s outfitters, onto
the archipelago roadway, of heat
absorbing afternoon asphalt.
The sound world that this poem inhabits, together with the alliteration is music to the ears.
Other poems speak of the notion of having a guardian angel, of the importance of being noticed, of turning the tables on disability. Daniel Kay, for example, in his poem ‘The Person I am Today’ says:
I’m grateful for the challenges disability has brought me,
it’s made me a stronger and more resilient person…
I’m grateful for the obstacles I’ve overcome
that have made me the person I am.
Specific attention is paid to the senses as enjoyment is found in the smell of coffee brewing, the sweet pungency of fescue tufted grass, the sound of a songbird chorus, bear hugs, high fives into held hands, lullabies hummed in the sleep of winter or grasses on a worn path rustling in the wind.
In ‘something more than that’, Linda M Crate sums up the philosophy and fortitude behind this collection when she writes:
… I refuse to settle for the mediocre
when I know I am meant for something
more grand that that.
This collection of 69 poems not only honours the work of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust but also acts as a fitting tribute in alignment with the NHS turning 75 years old in 2023.