Chris Kinsey is one of our finest Nature Poets. In 2008 she won the BBC Wildlife Poet–of the–Year competition for a poem about a tree–creeper. Her work with rescued greyhounds has earned her the nick–name of the greyhoundsâ€™ poet laureate. But as the poems in Swarf reveal, Chris Kinsey is also interested in human nature, especially among those whose lives are easily overlooked and under–valued – many of these poems draw on her experiences working with the elderly, with excluded students and adults with learning disabilities. It is a book about life in a small town, its mad Fridays, slow Sundays and long afternoons in the pub. It is a book of poems about living and learning, about hospitals, park–life, martial arts – and greyhounds.
The slightest sniff makes your muscles ripple. Squirrels set you arrow–alert then you soften and move like quicksand. A kingfisher flies low, close to the bank. Overtaking its reflection, it falters on a spillage of turquoise. The turquoise walks off the water flutters into a wrap–around skirt. A wolf–whistle shrills afternoon silent. 'What a beaut!' You reel back, hide from the man with noughts and crosses on his neck. 'Ex–racer? – Winner?' 'Don't know her history, only had her a fortnight.' 'Bet she's a good rabbiter.' Coaxing you from behind my legs, we walk on. He calls, 'Can I have pups off of her?' Nodding at the pram I say, 'You'll have to stick to babies.' The woman grins, but he frowns. 'She's been spayed.' I say. 'Shame – if I had a pup I wouldn't do nothing cruel – just a bit of lamping. Gotta feed these two!' Loosed for the first time, you rip through ripe grasses, stand crook–pawed as rabbits white–tail into hard earth. I open my arms and call with all my lungs. You're instantly in my shadow's pool pressing like a strong current.
Woken by cries – I sift cloud–fill for shape, for form, think geese – see swans catch colour from streaks of snow tacking the Arctic down latitudes. A bugling pair head straight–necked up the Severn, land where dilute sun and flood–silt sprout winter–wheat. Silent as relict snowdrifts, the grazing flock waits for thaw's eviction. Pumlumon raises a white brow over the source.
After the tour of the scabs and the skin graft there's silence. We sit still, mulling the rumours. 'Tell us what really happened?' 'I was worn–out visiting mum in hospital twice a day for three weeks....' The words chafe, disintegrate into coughs. 'Mum's friend offered to go so I had a bath and lay on the bed. Woke up late, hair helluva a mess, sorted it with hairspray, went to the toilet, lit a fag – Never come round for five days. When I did, tubes up my nose went right down my throat. I didn't realise and yanked them – I haven't been this fucking hoarse since going to see Bruce Springsteen.'
'That this language owes more to the banter of the pub than the poetry reading is to do with Kinsey\'s ear for the one–liner, the compressed, casual yet loaded wit of the street; with her instinct for the danger of the outside world.'
'Kinsey shows a real talent for reading the lives of others with an excitement that infuses the experience with vitality and vicarious joy.'
Cold Mountain Review
'These poems have mapped out a territory of their own, both in form and content.'
'a powerful and emotive collection.'
'powerful stuff... one of those poetry books you need to have on your shelf.'
'one of those rare beings. A nature-lover who doesnâ€™t put you off nature.'