They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but the illustration for Tricia Osborne’s ‘Taxus Baccata’ provides the exception. It gives the reader the perfect insight in to this mix of fantasy, myth and vivid observation.
One cannot read Osborne’s poems without sharing her sense of awe in nature. In ‘Sky Ballet’ she evokes the beauty of the synchronised movement of migrating starlings; in ‘Straford Mums‘ she describes the elegant beauty of a swan caring for her cygnets as the ‘scarlet and gold maples wave/either side of slow wrinkled water’; and in ‘Sunrise Concertante’ birds combine their voices to produce a harmonious concerto where ‘Air warmed sweet-grasses/fan fragrance into the wind: marsh marigolds shine.’ Osborne is a keen observer of nature, able to create what she sees and hears through vivid imagery. This sense of wonder is reinforced by her use of natural settings for fantasy, myth and legend. Nature is a magical place inhabited by spirits, a place where momentous things happen with the natural environment as both witness and participant.
Whilst she portrays nature as a source of stunning beauty, fertility and love, the poems also show it to have a darker, sinister side. Mother Nature can be cruel and the forest can also be a place of suffering, conflict and death. This paradox is epitomised in ‘Water Stalker’, the heron is described as ‘a dancer’, elegant and balletic. Yet he is also ‘a gatecrasher’, an ‘intruder’ stalking ‘innocent prey’ who ‘continue to play, unaware’. Significantly, the collection begins with the poem ‘May Bloom’ that warns us that the pure ‘white blossom smells of death, /bringing black angels’. It is easy to be seduced by the sensual delights of nature and be blinded to its dangers.
Although there is a sense of reality here, the tone of this collection is not downbeat by any means. The collection is aptly titled, ‘Taxus Baccata’, the common yew: symbol of fertility, life, death and, most importantly, of resurrection. Yews she tells us are ‘sacred’, ‘protect the dead’, ‘house living creatures’. Though we may suffer, the yew is our ‘healer’.
Patricia Osborne graduated with an MA in Creative Writing (Merit) via the University of Brighton. She is a novelist, poet, and short story writer and an online poetry tutor with Writers’ Bureau. Her poems have appeared in many anthologies and magazine. ‘Taxus Baccata’ is her first pamphlet and can be bought from her website: click here.