In her exhilarating how-to essay, ‘The Discipline of Getting Lost: On the Impossibility of Poems’ (in ‘Craft’, ed. R,Dastidar, Nine Arches Press, 2019), Caroline Bird advises poets to ‘Fling open the door of your first line’. ‘Write a first line,’ she instructs, ‘that thrusts you out, unprepared, into a world of your own making’. Her latest collection of poems, ‘The Air Year’ offers textbook examples of such first lines:
‘Nancy found an entire torpedo in the forest’ (Nancy and the Torpedo)
‘I think ‘so, this is death’ and wonder why’ (Checkout)
‘It’s like being a windmill in a vacuum’ (The Deadness)
‘The hotel was called Napthalene Heights’(Napthalene Heights)
‘I do kind gestures. Remove my appendix.’ (Sanity)
‘No-one dies here or chews their food properly’ (Loveborough)
What is an ‘Air Year’? Is it airy, airy-fairy, airless, full of hot air, airborne? Is it a breath of fresh air, up in the air, a pocket, a bubble of air? A time of coming up for air? The collection is all of these and more. As a reader, I was impelled to obsessive free association, to frequent raids on my dictionary, the poet’s baroque cascades of gorgeous, inventive, often preposterous imagery inviting me to join in the fun.