In the back garden here in Lusk, at the edge of Dublin, along Ireland’s east coast, there are many birds, sea gulls due to our proximity to the coast, blackbirds who return annually to build their nests in the chimney despite its metal bars, thrushes more recently and sometimes the sighting of a yellowhammer or bluetit and I get all excited suddenly about these flighty colour bursts on nearby branches. A Triptych of Birds and A Few Loose Feathers, the debut poetry pamphlet from Pratibha Castle, is very much like that – a burst of bright colour amid the many feathered cloaks of former dourness. From my perspective on the patio to the short distance to the bluetit on the branch, intrigue is sparked while knowing I will never get close enough to examine what dwells between and beneath the feathers.
Thankfully, in A Triptych of Birds and A Few Loose Feathers, nothing is left at such a distance, instead all is uncovered from nature, nurture to abandonment via examinations within the aviary of real life and its beatings and beauties. It is between the flights of surrounding tits, herons, sparrows, blackbirds, woodpeckers, finches and shoots of forsythia and primrose and the scent of while garlic and dryads that Pratibha explores the world and her journey – from birth in Ireland to upbringing in England, the flight away from father with her mother, from childhood in the cells of boarding school and its confessions ‘Tell me, my child, tongue-click over cracked lips, flicker in the priest’s groin: exactly what did yous do with him?’ to chanting ‘mantras with Ram Dass’ in Kensington in search of self – worth and want.
From the opening ‘heart hankering’ to its final wake – ‘the funeral mourn, damp’ as life is returned to soil, there exists, within these delicate pages, a sensual symphony of microscopic details, feathers amongst the leaves, ‘spider hatchlings swarming over terracotta pots’ to ‘down-at-heel nail files’, all fluttering around the central theme of life, loss and the birds that come and go in between the mother running and the father trying to hold – ‘Vron, I’ve missed you, an ocean streaming down his cheeks,’ the yearning of the child – ‘How could you let her snatch me from you?’ and on to the convent schools before our young Eve falls finally and releases that flaunt of piety before ‘a harpist whose healer’s hands strummed my strings’ in that Kensington flat.
Colour catches scent within these carefully pared down poems, as faithful flounders beneath flirtatious while seeds are planted in back gardens with fathers that will grow invisible. There is a lyricism here, akin to an Irish lullaby that never shuns the truth, despite the longing from the listener for a fairy-tale ending. She may have left Ireland at 3, but Ireland never left her and is evident all the way through this exceptional quest to find oneself worthy of love. A Triptych of Birds & A Few Loose Feathers, is an audacious flight in the face of all that could have buried, a release, into the air, of the weight no longer wanted. I encourage you to come listen to the song of this bird who has opened the cage wide – behold, the wondrous span of wing.
A Triptych of Birds and A Few Loose Feathers was the winner of the Nicely Folded Paper Trois competition from The Hedgehog Poetry Press and is available to buy from the link below. I’ve heard Pratibha, whose work has appeared in The Honest Ulsterman, Dreich, Fly on the Wall and The Blue Nib among others, read from this collection at Over the Edge and Flight of the Dragonfly Spoken Word and each time her reading uncovers another detail I hadn’t caught the first time. Get your copy now and watch it flutter before catching her reading when you can.
You can follow Pratibha on Twitter at https://mobile.twitter.com/pratibhacastle
You can buy A Triptych of Birds and A Few Loose Feathers at https://www.pratibhacastlepoetry.com/copy-of-home
You can find out more about The Hedgehog Poetry Press at https://www.hedgehogpress.co.uk/product-category/for-sale/hoglets/pratibhacastle/