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Review: A Year in the Bull-Box, by Glyn Hughes

From Late Harvests: Three Veteran Poets

After Glyn Hughes was diagnosed with cancer, he spent a year in a 'Bull-Box', an isolated stone building in the Ribble Valley, recording the changes in the natural world across the seasons, its bleak skylines, hard frosts and summer meadows.

The result is A Year in the Bull-Box (Arc, £7.99) an unbearably beautiful calendar-sequence in which the poet's 'tiny life' is overwhelmingly 'humbled' by lavish Nature's rich 'extravagance'.

But is also a series of meditations on mortality. Hughes is 'amazed into silence' as he contemplates the years behind him and the new year unfolding before him. In Cyclamens he contemplates the fragile beauty of these winter flowers, part butterfly / or angel... of earth, yet only for a moment settled -

Life's purpose seems for this
moment that is entirely itself:
is all that I can know - I know.
All life, damned behind,
means nothing but that it led to this.

As Hughes watches the salmon in the beck, that narrow gullet where the salmon / returns to breed and die in its birth channel he is again

puzzled by the shallows of our lives,
also by its leaps of joy
knowing only faith, fantasy, fear and hope
of death, until the last act which is not death, but dying.