Fawn Press ‘Elements: Natural & The Supernatural’ Poetry Anthology Review

Elements: Natural & The Supernatural cover

What better time than Autumn to cosy up with a book and observe nature’s transient gifts? This November sees the launch of brand new Staffordshire-based poetry publisher Fawn Press and their inaugural anthology Elements: Natural & The Supernatural. Founded and edited by established local poet Scarlett Ward-Bennett (Ache, Verve Poetry Press), Fawn Press “aims to publish beautiful books of exceptional poetry, as we believe that poetry has the power to change lives through that transcendental connection between writer and reader.”

They continue: “We hope to be a platform that welcomes all writers, rejecting elitist and pompous attitudes to publishing in favour of an inclusive approach, whilst maintaining a high quality of writing that transports, excites and inspires.” And the anthology certainly delivers on that promise, showcasing emerging poets alongside more established names, including Birmingham Poet Laureate Casey Bailey and Coventry’s First Poet Laureate Emilie Lauren Jones.

“Poetry that takes you by the hand and leads you into the woods”

Among these pages you’ll find the sensory pleasures of crackling fires and crunching leaves and apples. Death and mulch pave the path for a walk in recently wet woods. The collection opens strongly with a crisp sense of sound and taste before, fittingly, walking watchfully alongside fairy tales in all their night-fallen nuance. You’ll be reminded of the necessity of death to feed life. Some poems claim space, or darkness, reminiscent of the recently revived Reclaim The Night movement. Some issue lulling whispers of encasement. Some stretch their limbs with the comforting ache of languid fireside familiars.

An interesting facet of the anthology is its tellingness. The theme of the elements, “natural and the supernatural”, provokes a dense body of spiritual connections to the experience of being human within a landscape, within a time. The twitches of muscles, the yearnings, the questions, the needs of these poems say so much about what we expect of nature; how we frame it. Most often in this book nature is the object, not the speaker, and when embodied with a truly more-than-human perspective, it is made alien, made grief. Perhaps this is the message: to consider ourselves apart from nature is to detach also from humanity. And yet there is this pushing, this scratching at the self-edges.

Poetic forms are named and then broken like ungiving bones, haunting the muscle. You’ll experience winding songs that stir up the rhythmic lyricism of classics like The Raven, domestic-supernatural sequences of palpable childhood fear, the placing of names to honour the named, the humbling of glimpsing the universal vastness within which we all stand. You will follow baked clues to surprising revisions. Trees bleed like people here, water breathes. You’ll also recognise yourself. The habitual choice of putting yourself in the elements; the comforting martyrdom of watching life go about more easily elsewhere. Sometimes nature is the language, the backdrop, with which to splatter the self outwards. Some of these poems watch nature and imagine it surpasses humanity in its authenticity, its self-awareness, self-acceptance. There is an earthy simplicity to the cycle of life out of doors, while an otherworldliness, a transcendence, in the acquiescing to it. An acceptance of stillness makes room for new, and different, life. These are poems to run after, to hide with, to whisper to the woods.

“Before the morn we’ll leave an offering
of buttered bread with honey”
~ from Vappu by Bradley Blue

Elements: Natural & The Supernatural is due out in the first week of December 2021, and will be available for preorder from Saturday 20 November from the Fawn Press online shop. The softback edition is soft-touch matte lamination with gold foil lettering, and there will be a limited run hardback edition. Ward-Bennett says that Fawn is planning a launch event for the book as well as literary festival readings, and in the new year they will be publishing their first single-poet pamphlets.

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