Ilse Pedler is a prize-winning poet who writes from the unique perspective of a practicing veterinary surgeon. Her title: Auscultation
: means listening and specifically, in medicine, listening to sounds that come from the body’s internal organs. If listening is a central theme of this collection; it is also about being heard. This is a voice that has longed to be understood and heard from the depths of a difficult childhood and the emotions later raised by a court case for contact with her stepson. Pedler’s style is realist, often fiercely so, with the conviction of one who speaks from experience. There are a number of fascinating poems about surgical instruments. There are scissors and clips, scalpels, gloves, whiffs of chemicals and disinfectants. All is not as relatively calm as the operating theatre for there are also distant hill farms, pig pens, shearing sheds, stables, milking parlours, and freezing fields on winter nights. Formally the poems are also skilful and diverse with a broad range of forms from sestina to sonnet. There are poems also about the author’s constrained childhood, where children were to be ‘seen and not heard’, the death of her father, the love for her son, poems that muse on chemical elements and landscapes. There is also a final, moving section of poems, Fairy Tales and Stepmonsters: about being a stepmother, using the trope of the fairy tale to bring us this story of the difficult role of the stepmother who often doesn’t have a voice in court despite loving and caring for a stepchild, and outlining a difficult year in the life of a couple and a much-cherished child. Ilse Pedler’s poems in Auscultation
, with their cool realism, challenging subject matter, diverse use of classical and free forms and entertaining incidents, are sure to please intelligent, discerning readers.