Posts Tagged ‘Horses’

Quick Outline

Peyton’s Blind Beauty (one of my favouritest books ever, so don’t go expecting one of those useful unbiased reviews or anything…) opens onto the, so far, disastrous life of Tessa. Daughter of drunk Declan (one of those really fun book drunks that you know you should hate but secretly, all you want is to share his £2.99 one litre bottle of cider and dance) and weak, remarried mother Myra. The re-marriage of Myra to evil-stepfather Maurice sends the already troubled Tessa into even deeper difficulty. Excluded from about a billion schools, miserable and lonely, Tessa is forced by Maurice to help out at a local yard.

Resolving to hate the people, and the yard, just to spite Maurice, Tessa is surprised to find herself enjoying the work. The fates of Tessa and the yard, Sparrows Wyck, become inevitably entwined on the arrival of Buffoon, an ugly, poor looking horse who Tessa is given the care of. She soon discovers that estranged drunk Duncan bred him out of the mare she loved as a child. From that moment forward she puts all of her energy and spirit, once spent on doing bad things, into Buffoon; believing, against everyone’s advice and better knowledge, that he will make a wonderful racehorse.

Tessa is a wonderful heroine, tough and complicated, believing things against all odds. You love her even more when loving Buffoon humanizes her, this love cleverly weighting the horse down with massive human significance. And so, of course, lots of terrible things happen along the way and if you’re a baby like me you might cry. But you just have to sit out the sad bits because the ending is wonderful…

A Picture Portrait

Aintree: The crowd, the build up, the nerves. Grand National day, and the mixture of emotions it inspires, stands as an amplified version for every day spent by Tessa at the races. Peyton demonstrates what it is to be behind the scenes, one of the lads or lasses who care for the horses racing. Their fear, made worse by their inability to help their horse once the tapes have gone up; their frustration, caused by some owners who know nothing about their animal but imagine it instead as some sort of robot which is worthless unless winning every single race. And, ultimately, their love for the game; a love tied resolutely to fear, which ensures that, despite the odd bad, terrible, even horrific day, they remain hooked- addicted- to their sport.

Soon, Tessa herself is race riding, the reader experiencing a rush of conflicting emotions; fear, adrenalin, excitement, exhaustion and determination.

Favourite Review…

Well, to be honest, I couldn’t really find a ‘favourite’. This one will just have to do…!


If you don’t like horses or racing then it’s probs not the book for you. Also, if you like lots of boy lovin’ then the romantic story line might annoy you. It feels a little bit tacked on, because, after all, horse love rules this story.



5/5 Stars


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Not Moving Even One Step

The rain falling too lightly to shape
an audible house, an audible tree,
blind, soaking, the old horse waits in his pasture.

He knows the field for exactly what it is:
his limitless mare, his beloved.
Even the mallards sleep in her red body maned
in thistles, hooved in the new green shallows of spring.

Slow rain streams from the fetlocks, hips, the lowered head,
while she stands in the place beside him that no one sees.

The muzzles almost touch.
How silently the heart pivots on its hinge.

Taken from Jane Hirshfield’s 1997 collection, The Lives of the Heart, ‘Not Moving Even One Step’ is one of my favourites, partly because it’s beautiful, and partly because it’s about a sad old horse. A lot of the poems in this collection are about nature, and the idea, absorbed from the natural world, that things are as they are, that there is not always a lot to be done to change events/our selves, loves, lives etc. The natural world, although we can observe it, and attempt to capture it with words, remains separate from us, unconcerned by our obsession. This creates a conflicting irony throughout Hirshfield’s poetry, one that the poet is completely aware of: as she absorbs nature and attempts to pin it down with words, her personal world framed by the natural world, the natural world remains apart, refusing to bend its will, it cannot, it is an impossibility. Yet despite the author’s awareness of this fact, she continues her struggle. This is demonstrated beautifully in ‘Leaf’:

Large as two hands together,

still cupping rain,

yellow of amber stripped lightless,

scent of cold leather.

Nameless, one of ten thousand,

lifted without complaint or hope

to this painted table,

neither envelope or letter.

Almost nothing. Yet before you,

words lie down in envy and silence,

switch their tales,

bury their damp, dark snouts between paws.

I love how the whole argument of this poem is eventually defied by the final metaphor. Mere words, unable to encapture the beauty of the simple leaf, are compared to sulking dogs; an ironic comparison, as it forces the leaf and the inadequate words together inside the category of natural world. Words are unable to match the beauty of the leaf, and yet find themselves a part of that sphere. Hence, the author demonstrates how the tensions between nature and written word are overpowering, one lost in the other through the miss-judgement of the author’s hand.

This idea is one which is re-worked again in ‘Not Moving Even One Step’. The horse is a part of the field, they are one of the same, it is described as his ‘limitless mare’…‘maned in thistles, hooved in the new green shallows of spring.’ The rainwater washes over him; he is absorbed by his surroundings. His refusal to move, despite the conditions and the fact that his history is one entwined with an idea of movement, freedom and travel, is suggestive of despair, or of some secret thing for which he must ‘wait’ (l. 3). Moreover, this refusal to move also removes our human connection with him as a vehicle, an animal to carry us forward, a traditional beast of burden. It re-signifies him instead as a lover, mourning his lost mate who ‘stands in the place beside him that no one sees.’

Ironically, the horse is now re-burdened with another human fantasy, one that imagines him to love and mourn as we do, the author reflecting onto him human emotions and capabilities. The final line ‘How silently the heart pivots on its hinge’, more realistically refers to our own human hearts moving in sympathy to what we imagine the horse to feel, rather than his own heart pivoting on the memory of his missing mate. In this respect Hirshfield has turned full circle throughout the poetic process, removing human burden from the horse by ironically re-aligning him with human emotion; proving that nature, poetry and words cannot help but inter-mingle due to the weakness of our own human understanding.

My Favourite Review

The poet Rosanna Warren has said: ‘Hirshfield has elaborated a sensuously philosophical art that imposes a pause in our fast-forward habits of mind. Her poems appear simple, and are not. Her language, in its cleanliness and transparency, poses riddles of a quietly metaphysical nature…. Clause by clause, image by image, in language at once mysterious and commonplace, Hirshfield’s poems clear a space for reflection and change. They invite ethical awareness, and establish a delicate balance.’

….and the Hungry Mind Review put it beautifully when they say:

‘[She] writes for readers who have lived a little- that is to say a lot; who have lost and grieved, and know how painful the capacity to love can be.’

Not even a tiny, little, incy-wincy bit of criticism could pass from my lips. Hirshfield writes simple, effortless, perfect, human poetry that is just so lovely to read.



4/5 Stars

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