Review: Shaler’s Fish by Helen Macdonald

ShalersFishPublished by: Grove AtlanticpreviousShalersFish
eISBN: 9780802190703
ISBN 13: 9780802124630
Published: February 2016 (previously 1997)
Pages: 96
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five

Helen Macdonald is best known as the author of H is for Hawk, which won the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize and Costa Book Award. Previous to this, Helen published poetry and worked as an Affiliated Research Scholar at the University of Cambridge Department of History and Philosophy of Science.

In this collection of 42 poems we see the lyrical writing we loved in H is for Hawk put to perfect use for its ability to be read aloud and shared, for the beautiful beat the poems are set to, and the musical phrasing.

Helen beautifully shows the reader/listener the way she sees the world around her, capturing elements of nature that few go near these days, and even if they do, they’re not often able to experience the land as Helen has.

These poems capture the call of a wren in full song, death in both nature and creativity, falling and flying, and deep things surely over my head yet remain beautiful to read.

From “the new world”:

What is a hand for, but to be held? It is raining
in Georgia it is raining all over the world [. . .]

every moment describes some other music
and I cannot remember banality ever existing.

The wonderful thing with poetry is how they can be read again and again, always finding new meaning as your life progresses, giving you new interpretations of things around you. If only in school we’d had poetry like this to study, rather than the dull and dreary things we slogged through instead.

Highly recommended.

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