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Helen Tookey’s poetry engages with nature and landscape whilst steering clear of most of the pitfalls of that area. This release is a 32 page book of her poems, paired with a CD of Tookey intoning her words over the delicate folk of Sharron Kraus. 250 copies of this lovingly-presented set, on Wounded Wolf Press.

CD £12.99 978-605-4897-11-7

CD + 36pp book on 120 gsm natural ivory paper. Edition of 250 copies on Wounded Wolf Press including bookmark, all housed in biodegradable bag.

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If You Put Out Your Hand by Helen Tookey & Sharron Kraus
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8/10 Robin 20 June 2016

Welcome to the Norman Records book corner. This week we’ve got plenty of words to dig into, like kids working way too hard to reach the intellectual heights of the peers in their Year 9 English Literature class. ‘If You Reach Out Your Hand’ is one such offering, a collaboration between nature poet Helen Tookey and folk traditionalist Sharron Kraus. There’s a book of poems, and the CD acts almost as its point of reference, the strums and recorders showing where the words rest, retreat and stagnate.

Tookey’s poetry is rich with the movements of people and personifications: radios are talking, unnamed people are hiding in their gardens and weather is moving people along. She names obscure towns and tells petering tales about blunt situations (“Katherine” returns to the central motif “Katherine has been dead a week” while continually blurring its way off of the point). It reads with the illusion of detail: the happenings remain abstract and unknown, but the environment is full.

We’re a bloody music shop, though, aren’t we? Sharon Krauss’ is playing the music here (which you can hear instrumental, if you so choose), and it provides a fitting melodrama of the twilit. The most fitting work is “Katherine”, whose choral hums and discordant strums work towards a feeling of ghosts on a slow march through a garden. The music prepared for “Unadopted” and “Missel-child” has an introductory pastorality through acoustic guitars and recorders, which serve best when they keep the trail lit while Tookey pauses. The melodies for recorder on “Estuarine”, and their corresponding vocal harmonies, seem to set the poem’s tone, rather than respond to it, while the groaning string-bends of “Heptonstall” transpose the hillside environment you’ve been listening to and put it upside down.

It's frightening and lovely, measure for measure. I imagine if you lived in a house underneath the mountains that's kinda how you'd feel, so I'll take it.


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