Great poems are feral, escape their books. Olivia Byard’s The Wilding Eye exhibits the artistry of a wild meadow. The range is huge, from Homo Erectus beginnings, to possible species collapse: our stark choices and hope expressed in major climate-change poems. Damage and isolation heal with self-knowledge and kindness. We will die as hedgerow plants do; meanwhile, we can flower. Nature is ‘boss’: break her rules and ‘a watchful second strikes’. Obey her, and we may yet flourish among ‘sweet riot and tangle’. Selected poems from earlier collections, updated and reordered to complement, complete the volume; From a Benediction was short-listed for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection; Strange Horses was reviewed variously as: ‘fine hewn, often funny’ and ‘a resetting of intellectual history’.
“The titles of the two collections from which these new and selected poems are taken – Strange Horses and From a Benediction – are a good indication of Olivia Byard’s terrain. She scans nature’s hinterlands (where “sweet riot and tangle” pushes through the cracks) for meaning, and she keeps watch for the “roaming monsters” of our land: whether they mythical beasts that adorn cathedral walls, or our fallen political masters, sending “texts in the vernacular” in “faded jeans and sneakers”. At times impassiond, at others frail, Byard’s verse memorably locates our position in the world.”
“Olivia Byard’s work is genuinely gifted… and worthy of acclaim.”
“The imagery in Olivia Byard’s poems is always arresting and always founded on the everyday things of our world… These familiar things are made to express what is most important in the world: its fragility, and the way its continuity requires understanding and more sustained care and attention than we normally give it.”
“Olivia Byard has long shown promise as a poet in touch with her emotional experience. It increasingly rewards attention.”
“These poems are often unsettling and uncanny and occupy those contested spaces beyond our domestic thresholds. Remember the last time the animal in you stirred in fear or anger and you will feel the power of Byard’s Wilding Eye.”
John Field. Read John’s full review here.