Missing Miles: Hannah Stone, Indigo Dreams
Hannah Stone holds an MA in creative writing from Leeds Trinity University. Her first collection, Lodestone, was published by Stairwell Books in 2016. She won the Poetry Business Yorkshire Poetry prize in 2015 and was a winner of the Geoff Stevens Memorial Prize in 2016. Based in Leeds, she co-edits the poetry ezine Algebra of Owls.
Missing Miles, which is her second collection, contains 38 poems. Some of these reference Greek and Roman mythology or works of art, while others are a mixture of autobiographical or fictional pieces of a more generalised nature that take as their starting points a diversity of subjects such as the winter solstice, a battle with garden snails, mileage markers on finger posts and delays on the A64.
Having said that, we are never left for long in the shortening winter day, the garden, the countryside or the traffic jam because Stone uses these incidents as jumping-off points for describing something that is at once more universal. Her chief strength lies in her ability to shape the material at her disposal, primarily through the use of metaphor, into an interesting and rewarding poem whose real meaning strays some distance from its origin.
Interestingly, Stone finds our technology-driven world a source of poetic inspiration. Sometimes the references are to be found in the titles: ‘LinkedIn’, ‘This Folder is Empty’ and ‘Please see the Website for Details of our Helpline’ and at other times they are contained within the poems themselves: “I’m off-grid; google maps has run out of juice” and “Control plus ‘H’ sorts the browsing history / You’ve deleted the e-mails, / and confused vapour-trails of ‘sent’ messages. / Departure is imminent.”
I like the way Stone’s choice of words in ‘The Fall’ closely mirrors passages from the Bible resulting in a rhythm and cadence of arresting beauty; the length to which she goes to distract the reader as much as the cartographer in ‘Missing Miles’ with her spell-binding descriptions of nature; the imagery of flight in ‘This Folder Is Empty’ and the religious overtones present in ‘Morning Service’ where the church is her garden and the robin her preacher who invites her “to share his vision /for this new Eden,” with its touch of humour in the final sentence: “I am penitent / about the paucity of worms.”
In ‘Winter Solstice’ the contrast between the busy world of retail and commerce, depicted in the first two stanzas, and the sense of contentment gained in solitude when taking the road less travelled in the remaining four stanzas is skilfully handled, the latter bringing the bigger reward. Darker hues are painted in poems such as ‘Dumb Phone’ – a poem about non-communication - ‘Stormy Weather’, ‘Ford Crossing’, ‘Aphasia’ and ‘Eclipse’ where “Sky opaque as Tupperware is standard / in central London.”
Elsewhere, a wrecked relationship is described in terms of a shipwreck and a similar approach is adopted in ‘The Angler’ where Stone switches repeatedly between two entirely different subjects in a series of seamless joins. The cover picture of a hot air balloon, designed by Ronnie Goodyer, reflects Stone’s poem ‘Casting Out The Ballast’ in which she lets slip that she “never did write that poem about shoelaces” - and yet ‘Play Time’, several pages further on, may well be that very poem even though it soon becomes apparent that it is one that is viewed from the perspective of a cat.
These intelligent, sophisticated and often witty poems make for an impressive second collection from a poet whose voice is already measured and assured. Recommended.