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Jennifer Wong reviews ‘Return by Minor Road’ for Ambit

Poet Jennifer Wong reviewed ‘Return by Minor Road’ for the wonderful literary journal Ambit recently. I was very moved by her writing about the book, and by how she engaged with the collection. It’s heartening to have such a thoughtful reader who understands the connections between and behind the poems.

In her review, Wong says of the book:

“Beautifully crafted and understated, yet deeply moving, Return by Minor Road — Heidi Williamson’s third poetry collection — reflects on trauma, survival and hope, as it makes connections between natural landscape, wildlife and tragedy…

…In many of her poems, space becomes very meaningful and very much part of Williamson’s language. The experimentation with lineation in ‘Cold Spring’, for example, allows the reader to contemplate the gaps and omissions, look for meaning in the metaphors and between the lines where “there is a crying that is bone”. In ‘Elegy’, names of individuals — scattered across the page — serve to remind one of those who have died, their stories that need to be passed on, and those who go on living and remembering.

Drawing on the story of the woodcutter, ‘in a school room, the woodcutter’ is a fascinating erasure of Williamson’s own poem from her first collection, Electric Shadow (Bloodaxe, 2011), and which conjures a reimagined scene of the shooting:

they tried to be small                      as birds,   quieter
one feather         pressed to their beaks
The woodcutter
called to them                                                         with his shiny
voice

Reading Williamson’s poems, one is reminded of Seamus Heaney’s poems, the subtlety and clarity in his use of poetic language and metaphors.

In many of the poems in Return by Minor Road, there is a sense that “place” gains its gravity through one’s personal encounter and “reckoning” with it… one’s knowledge of the place that goes beyond the visible.

In this pandemic time, the reader will find sympathy and strength in the depth of these poems, which so powerfully capture grief, survival and courage.”

You can read the full review here