Review of ‘Words of a Derbyshire Poet’, by F. Philip Holland

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

by F. Philip Holland
Illustrated with fine sketches by Patty Holland
Published by Five-Bar-Gate Publishing,
ISBN 978-1-906722-12-8 (2009)

This new collection from F.Philip Holland presents a generous compendium of around 150 pieces. Moving far beyond his deep attachment to the lands of the Peak, the author has also taken inspiration from travels far and wide. His work shares constant refrains of nature and wildlife, from the hare as a dancing 'mad-cap boxer' to the unquenchable spirit of the Shire Horse, or to calves - not just cow but rhino. Lines on one devoted pair of twins breathe unexpected life into something quite mundane.

A White Peak farmer for most of his life, Philip makes wonderful use of rare dialect; the likes of charlock, gormers, a bullston' or the huckrel with her dubious morals.

Here is an imagination which lives not just in the past, however. Hence the intriguing 'Hannibal, on meeting Clarice'; Harry Potter put in his place; a rap-parody on Khubla Kahn. On a seasonal note, we can chant along with the rollicking 'Sale-Fever' (with apologies to John Masefield) - its lines typifying the instinct to read poetry aloud, viz:

'I must go down to the sales again, B.&Q. and M.F.I.
And all I ask is a Top Shop, and a Selfridges nearby
... And all I want is a plastic card, and a sell-by-date decoder,
And two new feet, and a facial scrub, at the free make-over'.

Levity is put aside for a selection of evocative love poems that conclude with 'Messages', a centuries-long journey of broken promises evolving from rolled up vellum and a goose quill to a secretive 21st-century 'C U L8 er?'

In his foreword to the book, Sir Christopher Ball gives the author high praise for his 'astonishing variety of topics, genres and forms' including free verse, ballads and sonnets. The first poem is in fact a haiku - a rare form which has recently made European headlines. Under the pen of poets like F.Philip Holland, the Peak will never become a literary backwater.

Review by Julie Bunting

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