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This review is taken from PN Review 168, Volume 32 Number 4, March - April 2006.

THE SEASONS ALISON FELL, Lightyear, with photographs by Ivan Coleman (Smokestack Books) £7.99

A light-year is defined as 'the distance that light travels in one year in a vacuum'. Alison Fell's new collection, Lightyear, also journeys over a year, but unlike the vacuity of the astronomical measurement, her poems move in a swelling richness of visual strength. Paired with the black and white photographs of Fell's photojournalist son, Ivan Coleman, Lightyear breaks from the calendar year and begins with October, a month that conjures images of autumn, the transitional season between summer and winter; a time when crops are harvested, temperatures cool and leaves are lost. She adopts traditional idioms of autumn in 'October/3' and begins with a generalised statement of light and dark, 'The chestnuts are stout fair fellows/lolling in the fallen leaves...' Fell (evocative name!) then goes beyond the familiar, cosy view of autumn, to evoke a deeper sense of loss, including death, in 'October/5':

Beyond black trees the sky's
exorbitant sunset
full of light and death.

Her language grows more ornate as she reveals the transformation of the darkness into a new kind of beauty:

now shedding a shower of ash leaves
from its Great Ephemeral Skin,
now standing in for a brand new
fragment of the beautiful

For Fell, the tree is a cyclical image. Even in the antsy February cold there is patience with the promise of spring's transformation:

Crow's scissor-beak ...


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