The context for the well-achieved poems in Glyn Hughes' A Year in the Bull-Box is the poet's diagnosis with lymphoma cancer in 2009, and its near synchronicity with his acquiring the use of a remote stone hut (the bull-box of the book's title) in the Ribble Valley. Essentially the sequence of poems that make up the collection constitutes an oblique narrative and vivid evocation of the healing strength to be found in the encounter with the detail of the natural world. The detail is recorded in diction of great clarity, its 'human' significance generally extrapolated with a light touch. As in Greenfly:
A greenfly sits on the uncomprehended glass
in uncomprehended light where the warmth pours.
To defend its untouchable, fragile beauty
in spanking-new green, look!
It has no less than four proboscises: two
small ones twitching constantly
and two that are graceful, longer than its body.
Black eyes glowing, each larger than its head.
How could such delicacy survive this frost?
Or in Soul Rise:
Hedge-tops are stooped with their flower burden,
hawthorn and first rose. Fields are all buttercups, sorrel
and flowering grass before being made into hay.
Walk slowly for that is to give
in looks and pauses, the soul its room.
It touches each branch and bird.
The book's concern with how flowers
give the light back in cups of beauty and recompense the dark / and bandage the damaged soul (Flowers) has throughout a resonant honesty and directness that is frequently moving, frequently thought-provoking in what it has to say about human morality. Warmly recommended.