Coracle - A Book Review



I was intrigued to be asked to review a book of poems by Peter Stuart. I worked with Peter a number of years ago, and he always seemed a very matter of fact kind of person. More prone to write a “how to” book than a poetry book I thought. One should never take people at face value.
His book is simply entitled “Coracle.” The internet will tell you that a coracle is a small round boat of wickerwork or straw. These little vessels transported the ancient Celts around the coasts and along the water ways of Ireland, Scotland and Wales. In the little book we are taken on surprising journeys. For those of us who understand geography from a road, being on the waterways allows for a different perspective on familiar places, and wonderful views of the new. I will never experience Cromwell the same having been through there with Peter. Nor will Wanaka or Manapouri remain just lakes to pass by, without a serious pause.
Peter also takes us on long journeys to places we might only dream of seeing. In Coracle we are invited into his experience of Istanbul, Bilbao, and Auschwitz. Coracles were slow moving vehicles at the best of times. In these poems we are given time to enter into each place slowly, deeply, to see beneath the surface and encounter something of the essence of each and Peter’s response.
Many Celtic saints also set sail in coracles with no paddle, no means of propulsion or steering. They did this to allow their God to take them where God willed. I am sure a significant number went straight to God through the deep waters of their faith. But many others landed in new places, and there found God waiting. So too in these poems do we find God waiting, or arriving unannounced, taking us on surprising journeys within – within the places and people we meet in these poems; and within ourselves as we allow the journey of these poems to lead us on.
This is a wonderful little collection. At times I laughed out loud. Other times I sat in deep stillness as another took his last breath. Thank you Peter for offering this little coracle, and your insight it contains. 
Coracle is available at Pleroma and Epworth bookshops, and at Kopua Any bookshop can order it in. Also at www.makaropress.co.nz.

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