Book Review: From the Rib by Fiona Clark EchlinIt is very rare these days to come across a poet who solely concentrates on a poetry form, in this case two forms, to create a book in the contemporary age of free verse writing. It is also a breath of fresh air to find such a book to give us readers of poetry something new, fresh and exciting to read, and in this case, the poet Fiona Clark Echlin with her book ‘From the Rib’ has giving poetry readers something different to enjoy.

A few weeks back, I attended the 2012 Over the Edge Poetry book Showcase in Galway in search of new poets and books to read and enjoy. Just like my discovery of Pete Mullineax that night, I also came across Fiona. It was her reading of her poem  ‘ Tipperary Uncut‘ that punched my ear and slapped my face with excitement, the last poem from her book, a Villanelle, and from there I was hooked.

Fiona’s book ‘From the Rib‘ (published by Revival Press) is a mix of two poetry forms, The Sonnet and the Villanelle. I am a huge fan of both these forms (though I do swing more towards the Villanelle) and was delighted to hear a poet read such wonderful work at a book showcase. These poems, as we know, when read loud sound outstanding, beautiful, perfect music, and the rhythm jumps from tongue to ear with perfection, which, Fiona has managed to do with the poems in this book.

Fiona was born in London and now lives in Limerick, west Ireland. Not only is she a poet, but an award winning playwright and storyteller. You could feel this experience in her voice at this reading and the delivery of the poems where inch perfect.

The book opens with an explanation of each form, The Sonnet and Villanelle which is a nice touch. In the foreword, Fiona explains ‘that the poems in this collection are concerned with broadly female ideas but only in so far as to say they have been written from a feminine as opposed to a feminist’, as this may be the case, and a statement like this may be enough to turn off most men, I urge that the book does speak to all with the beauty of human conditions of love and the struggle of life and upon reading it I found it both moving and inspiring.

To me I ask the question, will the choice of poems in these forms, turn people away? I do not believe so, as I have seen a growing increase in sonnet writing over the past few years, myself been a keen practitioner. As readers and writers of poetry, we should be open to all aspects of this amazing craft. These two forms are tricky, and hard to accomplish with skillful effect, but Fiona has manage to do this masterfully.

The book is split into four sections, with 25 Sonnets and 7 Villanelles, all done in the traditional forms, the 3 traditional sonnet forms of Italian, Shakespearean and Miltonic, and the Villanelles, 19 lines, 5 stanzas, read with perfecting and beauty, very enjoyable on the tongue that as a reader you will forget that you are reading poetry forms and slumber in to a world of consistent well-crafted beautiful lines.

I expect this to be a popular book. Though it is written in poetry forms, you will ignore this at first read, and then reread to appreciate the brilliance of the craft. These poems here are powerful, emotional, images of strong people and full of hope.

The craftsmanship is impeccable, each poem and form is faultless. If you want to read a book this year, different in style, theme and full of musical perfection, a book that introduces you to two famous yet satisfying ear-pleasing forms, then ‘From the Rib‘ should be added to your collection to be reread and enjoyed. The following poem is a Villanelle and is one of my favorite from the book.

Tipperary Uncut

For hunger drove the Devil here
To take a bite from these sad hills
A lasting testament to fear.

An ugly scar from mouth to ear,
Its sleeping pus as running rills,
For hunger drove the Devil here.

To stalk the landscape and appear
In bogs, on clouds – a sight that chills,
A lasting testament to fear

That brings the frozen ghosts too near
Our screens, like cinematic stills-
For hunger drove the Devil here;

No celluloid to move a tear
But blunt reality that wills
A lasting testament to fear.

And in the wind-warped trees we hear
A sound from hell as famine kills-
For hunger drove the Devil here,
A lasting testament to fear.

Where To Find It?

From the Rib can be found and purchased on the publishers website here at Revival Press

About The Author:

Born in London, Fiona Clark Echlin has lived and worked in London, New York, Istanbul and finally Limerick. As well as being a poet, Fiona Clark Echlin is an award-winning playwright and story teller.