Saturday, August 1, 2020

Awakening; Musings on Planetary Survival - Sam Love

I find poetry the hardest thing to write about - which is one very good reason to keep trying to do it. By contrast it's much easier to talk about, which is why I'm now regretting being the first person on this tour - I'd very much like some other peoples reactions to bounce off and to have a virtual conversation with.

Still, somebody has to be first, so here goes. I hadn't heard of Sam Love before I read this collection, and it was only when I started reading that it really clicked that he was American (since then I've done a bit of googling and am slightly less ignorant). I'm also going to suggest that if you don't know him either that you leave off looking him up until after reading some of his work. The author information came at the back of this book, and there's a lot of Sam in his work - another admission - I half thought Sam Love would be a woman when I said yes to this, and now I feel that I shouldn't have made his gender clear. There was something really useful about coming at this collection with no clear idea of age, ethnicity, nationality, or gender; just meeting somebody's words and getting to know them through their poetry.

As far as the poems themselves go they're neither the most beautiful, or complex that I've encountered - but there's an honesty about them which is deeply appealing, and there's no mistaking their meaning either. By Poem number 5, 'Jacuzzi Guilt' I felt like Sam was a friend that I wanted to listen too. It nails the difficulties of balancing the benefits of comfort and convenience with the needs of the planet and the wider population, and it does it with understanding and sympathy. It's a theme that recurs throughout the collection; the poems that touch on it are the ones that resonate most for me.

'Ghost Stumps' is another poem that stood out for me. In it Sam talks about his Victorian era house which both cries out for restoration and represents the wholesale destruction of ancient woodlands. There are issues here that we all have to grapple with - recognising the cost of things we consider beautiful, the cost of our historic legacy (the question of how to acknowledge the good and bad in that is increasingly pressing), and that non of the answers are likely to be simple.

It's a short collection, easy to read in minutes, with poems that that I've come back to a few times in the weeks that I've had this. The central themes are environmental damage and taking personal responsibility for it - 'Blueberry Mourning' is another poem that has stuck with me. There's both hope and despair here and it's definitely a collection that I recommend. The things it's discussing are important and the way it discusses them is no less so. It doesn't lecture or scold, but asks for consideration and compassion along with action.
It's available for £6.99 from Fly on the Wall Press who are doing all sorts of interesting things and are very much worth checking out. 


  1. Thanks so much for opening Hayley! So interesting what we assume about authors prior to looking them up as well, half the fun! x

  2. Very much part of the fun, and this time it was really good to approach this with an absolutely open mind. I think by the second poem I had a fairly accurate image, and by the 5th was a definite fan.

  3. Thank you for reviewing this book. Environmental issues have taken a back seat to Covid and Black Lives Matter so giving them some visibility is critical.

    1. It was a pleasure, and I thought the acknowledgement that the best choices might be easy enough to make but cost something to perform was particularly well made. I have really enjoyed the time I've spent with this collection and the way it highlights the issues at it's heart.