Lawrence Moore is a sensational poet who has been published internationally and is the author of one of my favourite books, “Aerial Sweetshop”. It is a book that makes me feel good every time I read it! I am also incredibly lucky to be able to call Lawrence my friend. I asked him if he would be an early reader of “Tiger Lily”, and he wrote this amazing review. Thank you so much, Lawrence!!!!!

A Review of “Tiger Lily”, an Ekphrastic Collaboration by artist Jane Cornwell and poet Susan Richardson

‘I am emancipated by the sinking sun.’

Tiger Lily is a serenade to nature, a symphonic ode to darkness.

In its opening pages, co-conspirators poet Susan Richardson and artist Jane Cornwell use gentle imagery and the language of intimacy and hope to lull the reader into a world of beauty waiting to reveal a darker side when the time is ripe.

‘I shriek and laugh as the water ripples

across my delicate wrists,

bathing starfish and seashells

that live in the ocean of my imagination.’

In Mermaids Are Real, Cornwell’s soft shapes and reflections on the water amplify the runaway fancies of a young girl by the swimming pool’s edge. Playful innocence continues with In the Cradle of a Whisper, a charming watercolour of sleeping siblings and a lyrical tribute to the wonder of infant years.

It is in Woodland Queen that the first few notes of danger begin to play in the background, though the poem is more noteworthy for the way Richardson drives home her ardent love of the natural world. Its pounding rhythm acts as a summoning chant for the lady of forest shadows, with copious heady descriptions transporting us there to be her witness for one night only.

‘He will be given back to the earth

to mingle with the roots of trees,

become the soil that cultivates life.’

In the title piece, Cornwell’s image features a lullaby palette awash with stars and clouds. As an invitation to dream through the eyes of a child, it fits glovelike with Richardson’s moving account of how her father returned to the mindset of his formative years, going full circle, yet only on his latest rotation of many.

One day I will stand beneath a clean sky,

eyes glorious,

bathed in a thousand shades of green,

and know I am finally home.

Deeper in, a wistful longing for the countryside expressed in Frolic turns raw in its successor, A Thousand Shades of Green, where you can taste the deep urban unease and adamant resolve for change. As Suzanne Craig-Whytock asserts in her excellent forward, there is a clear parallel here with Richardson’s decision to leave Los Angeles and move to Ireland.

You don’t need eyes

to find what has been lost..

At the centre stands Puzzle Pieces, Cornwell’s engrossing gouache painting replete with menace and murk, though within its stormclouds, there sits a giant orb of light threatening to assail with clarity. Richardson’s words plunge us into a dream where her father speaks to her, urging her to ‘collect the scattered pieces’. When she tells him she can’t, he then labours to assuage her insecurity before scattering away in pieces himself.

I remember the first time

sadness sat like a galaxy on my chest,

changing the shape of my twelve year old heart.

Much of the second half is devoted to purging inner demons as Richardson talks of fear, depression and self-doubt with devastating frankness. In Fading Marigolds, Cornwell’s stark, colourless portrayal of a woman curled up on the edge of despair tells the story strikingly before the poem elaborates upon the plot in a manner that feels deeply confessional.

Disguised by the sounds of darkness,

I fly through chaos with open eyes,

unafraid and beautiful.

Tiger Lily abounds with stars in night skies, but the penultimate picture, Winter Eyes, depicts a woman sinking serenely into a starlit ocean deep. The poem also talks of falling and tumbling and yet the mood conjured is uplifting, galvanising. Replenished, Richardson launches into The Shape of Dragons, a rip-roaring closer sparkling with defiance and a celebration of a tumultuous life without which, we would be robbed of the glory and enchantment of Tiger Lily.

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