Becoming a Tree
I scaled the beech I was most intimate with,
the one who had kindly grown a low fork,
and had said: ‘Sit here on my three-fingered hand,
and tell me what you have become’. I spread
my five-twigged hand, and fiercely dreamed...
A child climbs a tree and sprouts leaves from his fingertips – not magic, but imagination. Ancient people drum and play flutes in the echoing caves of Lascaux. A fire-eater in Mexico City goes to work. A Cairo family find treasure in a rubbish dump. Robin Hood turns up in the 21st century and goes online...
Becoming a Tree is a collection of poetry with three elements: personal, political and humorous. With a wide range of subject matter and form, its defining feature is its diversity. Becoming a Tree features a selection of people in history, from the tragic young Tsarevitch Alexei, killed by the Bolsheviks, to the noble Simon Bolivar. There’s also a fun section – poems that are playful, off-the-wall, wacky: the poet tames a sabre-tooth tiger; heroic Torvald Longtooth the otter sets off on an adventure to rival The Odyssey. And there is a nonsense poem that Lewis Carroll himself would have admired.
Poetry grows out of everyday things – a traffic roundabout, a TV commercial break – and James’ collection features poems intended both for careful contemplation as well as for more light-hearted reading. Becoming a Tree will appeal to both established fans of poetry and those interested in discovering more of the genre.
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