Brood is the new pamphlet from poet Rhian Edwards. Winner of all three categories of Wales Book of the Year in 2013 for her debut poetry collection, Clueless Dogs, Bridgend-born and based Edwards is known for her dazzling performance style and her vivid, often acutely personal poems.
The new pamphlet opens with ‘Birds of Rhiannon’ introducing us (via a nod to the famous medieval Mabinogion story where magic birds, said to bring people back from the dead, console the heartbroken Celtic princess Rhiannon) to a darkly resonant tone that echoes from the myth:
Before I was mortal, I was haloed
in feathers, my trinity of familiars;
whose birdsong was legend, serenading
the dead from their dreams,
lullabying the living to torpor…
The centre of this new pamphlet is a ten-part poem, ‘Pied Margot’ based on the mnemonic rhyme for groups of magpies ‘One for Sorrow, Two for Joy…’. This long poem charts the progression of a troubling relationship from infatuation to disillusionment, alongside the birth of a much-loved daughter.
There are unflinching descriptions of arduous pregnancy, as well as miscarriage, that remind us that this stage of a woman’s life can be as risky as a battlefield. Also, any parent will recognise the irritated joy of ‘Kiss’ where a child becomes an expert at ‘delaying the damnation of bedtime.’
Meanwhile, birds are at all times present: hovering, chattering, casting their shadows, they are both tricksters and familiars in these hypnotic, spell-like poems. Welsh artist Paul Edwards has provided some beautiful charcoal drawings of magpies inspired by this atmospheric sequence, which feature throughout the pamphlet.
Other poems feature Gulls, Red Kites and ‘The Universal Doodle’ of a murmuration cloud of starlings. This pamphlet Brood is an apt follow-up to Clueless Dogs and leaves us eager for the poet’s next full collection.