An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
Bluechrome Publishing
PO Box 109
BS20 7ZJ
ISBN 1 904781 80 2

NHI review home page
FAQ page
Notes for Publishers

book reviews
other media

Web design by Gerald England
This page last updated: 1st September 2009.

This is a beautifully produced book of compelling poetry. PARTICLES OF LIFE is set out in six sections. The first one, SO MUCH RAW REDEMPTION, has a subheading, from childhood to children which is an early clue to the autobiographical nature of Jan Fortune-Wood's work. Hers is a brave and revealing collection. Brave, because she has confronted several difficult periods in her life head-on and chosen to write about them. Revealing, because the verse is so deeply personal often confessional that the reader is drawn into many aspects of her life and that of her family... There is always something to keep the reader turning the page.

PARTICLES OF LIFE is well written: it is an interesting and entertaining collection, with humour balancing pathos and observations of nature and landscape contrasting with the more deeply personal moments. Early life was not a happy time for Jan. Her relationship with her mother was cool her mother showing more care towards her prized GLADIOLI than her children:

	They were raised by hand, with all
	the tenderness we never had.
	I still can't see gladioli
	without that jealous stab.
Jan recalls in CLOSENESS IN A COLD CLIMATE her mother's heartlessness:
	I pictured myself, seven years old, huddling
	over the broken glass wedged in my toe,
	the sting of the sand in my blood, while you point
	to the first aid post; smoke while I hobble alone.
And it is her mother's uncompromising and selfish attitude which drives Jan away from home and into an early marriage.

Jan worked as a teacher before training for the ministry and being ordained into the Church of England. As a priest she endured physical assaults and a loss of faith THE LAST HOUR

	I was not yet into the grace of
	beyond faith, of Spring or of salvation in
	my hands; so I left it all unsaid
	and walked away. What is there to  say?
From these sad events Jan was able to re-appraise her life, work through her pain and find an enviable peace.

Love, of course, is key as in THE WITNESS:

	Our summer skin
	still warm
	and we held each other,
	breathless with the audacity
	of love,
	tentative fingers
	tracing the landscape
	of our future.
Central to this is her family life, as illustrated by the poem STRINGING BEADS. Here her daughter is seen threading beads that Jan used to wear:
	You stretch the twine
	slide the colours to
	your satisfaction, place
	jewels with your weight 
	of concentration,
	restring my past;
	offering a future.
Jan and her family have been able to make a fresh start, have found a home in Wales and are SETTLING IN:
	After twenty-five years,
	we've come to this place
	of slow-warming granite,
	a solid slate roof,
	three floors of rooms
	proportioned to us
	with wet Welsh views,
	or hot autumn days,
	the kind glow of stoves
	that invite us to stay,
	settle in.
Clearly Jan and her family have come through, and in HOW TO RISE AGAIN , she recommends living life to the full:
	Find dandelion clocks
	and count to twelve;

	Grow tulip bulbs
	on every window sill
	and walk a moonlit beach
	at equinox
She ends this poem and the book with this telling advice:
	You will not live forever,
	but for now;
	not wasting life
	on how to rise again.
I recommend, before life gets in your way, that you make time to read this accomplished first poetry collection.

reviewer: Patrick B Osada.