Does the world need another poetry collection? Well, in the exception of Helen Moore’s Ecozoa I would say whole-heartedly, Yes! This is an important cri-de-coeur from, unusually, a permaculture publisher, Permanent Publications. Amid their practical manuals for a more sustainable life, Moore’s poetry reminds us that we need soul as much as soil, that a Transition future will be an arid one without culture to remind us of our flawed humanity. Unlike much modern poetry it takes the risky gambit of actually daring to say something – with intelligence, with authenticity, and with wit.
Helen’s poems are no mere word-games, cryptic crossword clues that we must aspire to decode in homage to the poet’s cleverness. Not that there isn’t sophistication and subtlety here. These poems, dense with topical and classical allusion, that warrant re-reading – yet their heartfelt message comes across loud and clear. The prevailing rhetoric is one of a defiant Gaia-consciousness squaring up to a rapaciousness planet-destroying Capitalism – resulting in an excoriating critique of business-as-usual consensus reality, which markets the latest disposable must-have gadget using the iconography of nature (Apple; Blackberry; Orange, etc). Such an approach could easily become overly didactic and tediously tub-thumping, but time and time again Moore leavens this with her verbal dexterity, her playfulness with language, and her 360 degree awareness of the bigger picture.
The microcosmic illustrates the macro – as in her poem ‘The Pocket’s Circumference’: 'If Earth were a fist balled up and thrust in a pocket, the atmosphere would be as thin as that cotton fabric.’ She doesn’t avoid pulling punches, as in her powerful 'Kali Exorcism’: ‘Come, dark goddess, tear off veils of rhetoric that conceal/war-mongering deeds in cloaks of respectability; help us/hear deeper than the pre-emptive strikes, the collateral damage.’ She celebrates the humdrum, the little wonders of nature, even the urban – and, always, man’s impact on the natural, as in her poem, 'Egford Brook, with Scum’. Moore plays with forms – using concrete poetry, proem, refrain, Beat-rap, mantra, liturgy, eulogy… constantly pushing the envelope.
This is not cosy tea-time poetry for Radio 4 listeners. Yet there is beauty and life-affirming delight here in a paean for human-nature biodiversity and abundance. The collection is structured on William Blake’s four Zoas, and ultimately offers a rebalancing of the Earth’s humours in a holistic template for sustainable life. It is a celebration of the locally distinctive ('Our Daily Bread’; 'Apple Company, West Country’) and the long view ('Glory be to Gaia’; 'Bio tapestry restored by citizens around the world’). Her unfailing attention to the quotidian miracles of creation is a call-to-adventure – to plunge into life and defend it to our dying breath.
Kevan Manwaring is a poet, writer, teacher and storyteller who lives in Stroud, England. He teaches creative writing for the Open University and Skyros Writers Lab. See his website for more details about his work.
Helen Moore will be reading her poetry at the Seed Festival at Hawkwood, Stroud, taking place from 17-19th July. Click HERE for more information