Thursday, 24 January 2019

'What is marrow?' A glowing review of the 2017 Ecca Poets publication

Ecca Poets 2017 

I am delighted to offer you extracts from a new, beautifully engaged and engaging, review of the 2017 Ecca publication, This Moment's Marrow, by Rene Bohnen. Below I have cut and pasted her words on Norman Morrissey's and my own contributions. For the review in its entirety, please click

Ecca Poets: This Moment’s Marrow
A reader’s impression by RenĂ© Bohnen

What is marrow? This question spontaneously pops up as I hold the 2017 publication of the Ecca Poets – their 20th book in 25 years. This edition, This Moment’s Marrow, offers the reader  an eclectic group of poets in an anthology which makes for an enriching read.

So what is marrow? Dictionaries present definitions we know so well that we probably seldom pause to think about the profound meaning of the word.
Marrow is “a soft fatty substance in the cavities of bones” the internet offers, and also “ the essential part of something”.  Synonyms given are: “essence, core, pith” and “heart”.

In the reading of This Moment’s Marrow,  I discover and experience the whole spectrum of these dictionary entries.

The anthology title is taken from a Norman Morrissey poem on page 26.


A dove called,
and I’d a vision
of our lithe boomslang

up in the cherry tree:
the Holy Ghost
and the hero

winding Hippocrates’ staff of healing
in one grasp
of thought:

old myths, symbols
in this moment’s marrow.

All of the Morrissey poems in this anthology show an accomplished poet at his task. Strong pastoral imagery, bursting with life, alternates with delicate vignettes of tenderness and tranquil silence.

Norman Morrissey passed away in July 2017 and has left a rich literary legacy. Like the butterfly shows us the breeze, this poet shows us wisdom. (Page 24)


You knew there was a breeze
because the butterflies


According to the Preface, the poets have had “no real aspirations or manifestos” and their books will hopefully always have “a workshop feel” (Brian Walter on page 1)

If the function of marrow is to generate blood cells, the vital role of Ecca get-togethers is evident. Nurturing and giving oxygen, the group promotes growth in individual poets. All have successfully made their own paths as well – since paths are made by walking, as the Spanish poet Antonio Machado so succinctly put it.


Children and babies feed the marrow of a mother’s soul, as they do that of the poet. 

            When I fell
            with you I fell

            into new makings,
            poems would wake me”

writes Silke Heiss in “Kept up” on page 27. She is a poet who understands the exquisite tension that is created by holding two polarities at once. I give you the example on page 29, where a surprising contradiction alerts the reader to a vast truth held within a small poem:


Mist is
a revelation,
a happy Gossip –

tells all
where air has been –
is going to.

Almost haiku-like, the short poems sigh with insight and meaning; they show Heiss to be a master of cutting right to the essence of her observation. In her longer poems, she displays an instinctive grasp of the objective correlative, by evoking strong emotion in the reader without annoying prescription. On page 29 we find the

            Wood Owl

            I go outside to fetch some kindling,
            my blankets snag on branches dry –
            unwitting I catch them with the twigs I’m breaking:
            they whirr and cough and patter and sigh.

            Panic I subdue with patience,
            pull away gently, sensing why.
            Free at last I fill the box,
            but am lost in the dark by the Wood owl’s cry.


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