Robin Durnford turns her attention to motherhood, family lore, fishing, weather and the artistry of local idioms in her engaging new poetry collection Half Rock.
Pleasing to both the eye and the ear, the handsome red volume captivates readers with well-wrought poems that pay homage to the author’s upbringing in Newfoundland and her travels in Ireland and Wales.
In “Customs,” she gives voice to the excitement and trepidation of a passenger’s arrival at a fog-socked airport.
plane can’t land/until our pilot/paints that final/line of light/between sky and/the open door.
Durnford delivers a powerful paean to the birth process in a series of poems that comprise the third section of the volume. “birth was hard/ hell,” she writes in “Cleaved,”
you wouldn’t come/so they/scratched a straight line/from me to you/and now/my bitterness is done.
Other poems in the section explore breastfeeding, weaning, an infant’s crawl and first steps. Shaped by the author’s observations of the natural world and lack of sentimentality, the poems provide a welcome counter to the often-idyllic verse about the vaunted “wonders” of motherhood.
Wordsmiths will revel in the terms (gulvin, jinker, lolly, wellum, graupel) that pepper Durnford’s poems about the idiosyncratic climate, residents and traditions of her native Newfoundland. Readers learn about wooden legs, digging wells and gutting rabbits. The author charms with her directive, in “Parturition,” to savour “bubbly in the afterglow.”
In “Young Love,” the author lets loose with a slew of invectives that offer an unvarnished portrait of the crass, defiant and sullen attitudes of many adolescents in North America. Then she blindsides readers with two lines that capture the love, compassion, and understanding that infuse Half Rock:
“Any lobsters/A few but no price.”