This is highly-charged poetry – intelligent, honest, unsentimental, exciting – full of surprises and with an unflagging pace and energy from the very beginning. The book falls into four sections: ‘Kingfisher’, a prize-winning sequence of poems about the death of the poet’s mother, to whose memory the book is dedicated; ‘Gull View North’, a long view (gull’s view) of the quarrying of Portland stone; ‘Penelope’s Magpie’; and finallly, ‘The Urge to Look Up’, both of which explore old and new relationships, dying and developing love.
"This kind of poetry demands nothing other than that we observe our world more closely, think on it, feel something for it. It celebrates the lives and loved ones of the real people critics call 'readers'."
In those last days she objected (gently)
to the trays of drugs the nurses brought:
I’m not a kingfisher she told me.
Swallowing was hard. She hadn’t caught
those pills in river light – didn’t have the king
bird’s knack of flicking them in the air
until they perfect-angled down the o-ring
of her open throat. Her daily catch was square-
or zeppelin-shaped. She had to get
the pitch just right so they would slip
like silver fish into her failing gullet –
otherwise she’d gag on them, be sick.
On her last day they pumped morphine through
her veins. I waited. Watched. It only took one
hour before a dart of brilliant green and blue
flashed past me (heading somewhere) and was gone.
Born in Sheffield in 1961, Elizabeth Barrett has a first-class degree and PhD in History and Politics from the University of London and was a scholarship student at the University of Massachusetts in the 1980s. She later trained as an English teacher, subsequently working in education research and as a university lecturer. She has received several awards for her poetry including an Arts Council of England Writer’s Award in 2000. She has worked as a writer-in-residence in schools, a prison and on local radio, and as a creative writing tutor and poetry editor. A Dart of Green and Blue is her fourth book. She has two children and lives in Sheffield where she is Principal Lecturer in Education at Hallam University.