Phil Barnett: Birds Knit My Ribs Together

NOWADAYS poetry is a literary form shunned by most publishing houses because sales are unlikely to set the heather alight.

Plaudits, therefore, to London micro-publisher Arachne Press for taking a punt with South Lancashire birder Phil Barnett's eccentrically-titled Birds Knit My Ribs Together - a collection of 41 short but intense and sometimes disturbing poems.

Many have been inspired - totally or in part - by individual species including blackbird, goldcrest, blackcap, song thrush, barn owl, curlew, woodcock, snipe, jackdaw, woodpigeon, wren, heron, kingfisher, fieldfare, redwing and swallow.

There is nothing twee or sentimental about Barnett's writing. It is often characterised by a hard-edged vividness - for instance, in the study of a collared dove falling victim to a sparrowhawk, its "upside down" wings helplessly slapping the path - "a wrestler's signal to submit".

The robin is presented as a "blood-orange-bib bird". Meanwhile, with their erratic "here and over there" flight patterns, he describes housemartins "batting away distance for the fun of it".

In another of his  thought-provoking poems, he invites the reader to take a wider, more theological perspective: "When the god drew the world in pencil and coloured outside the lines, all the birds were born."

Definitely something there to reflect on.

Birds Knit My Ribs Together is published in paperback at £9.99 (plus £2.30 postage) by Arachne Press, 100 Grierson Road. London, SE23 1NX.