The Bramble King
The Bramble King is full of darkly resonant tales, ingenious parables, curiously haunted rooms and palaces, and beautifully observed images of the natural world. A prolific, popular and prize-winning author of fantasy fiction, Catherine began her career as a poet, and Seren published her early volumes: Immrama, The Unexplored Ocean and Altered States. The Bramble King is Fisher’s first collection of poems since 1999.
The book opens with a series dedicated to imaginary planets, each with unique properties: sometimes sinister, such as ‘Hades’ where “the sky flames all day and all night”; or as unsettling as ‘Babel’ where “there are voices everywhere, singing, crying and no one listens”; or as humorously surreal as ‘Gravitas’ where “each arm takes centuries to rise”. The next three-part poem is a narrative focused on the life of a girl who seems to live in a corridor of glass and is defined by her elusive image in multiple reflections.
Characteristically in these poems, the protagonists attain a mysterious status such as ‘The Daughter of the Sun’ in her lonely tower. Sometimes they are directly borrowed from myths: of King Arthur in ‘Sion’s Seat’; of characters from the Welsh medieval tales: ‘Gronw Pebyr’ and ‘Branwen’ in ‘From the Mabinogion’. The hauntings are mostly in modern guise: ‘The House to its Owner’; ‘The Flat Where the Cinema Was’; ‘The House Where the School Was’. A former tenant is evoked through the remnants of his uncollected mail.
There is a thoughtful series of poems inspired by artwork. The author’s experience of life-drawing informs her eloquent poems about the work of Edgar Degas, the great 19thcentury painter renowned for his draughtsmanship. ‘Post War’ recounts an anecdote of Wynford Vaughan Thomas who recalls his delight as he came across masterpieces hidden for safety in an Italian monastery at the close of World War Two.
The natural world is also vibrantly observed and most often to a purpose, to recall a specific set of human thoughts and emotions. ‘Frost’ is full of precise observation and casts an appropriately chilly spell on the reader. Pre-history is also wonderfully imagined in ‘Prehistoric footprints’ and the ominously eerie nature of a landscape pervades in ‘There are Places in the Downs that Turn you Back’.
Seren is delighted to be publishing this beautifully thoughtful and wonderfully entertaining collection of verse by Catherine Fisher, both her fiction fans and poetry readers will find much to enjoy in The Bramble King.