Review: “The Hunted River” by Robert S King

The Hunted River

I am looking for a word to describe Robert S. King’s poetry collection The Hunted River and I think I’ve found it. It is elegiac. These are fundamentally sad poems, poems of loss (whether in the past or still to come) and yearning; poems of memory, poems of moving on, going somewhere, but never quite letting go of where you have been. As the poet writes in “Regret”:

“We are always dreaming our way back,
looking behind us to see the road
rolling up like a sleeping bag,”

The collection is divided into six sections and here too the heart of the book is highlighted: “Go the Way of Dreams”, “Go the Way of Memory”, “Go the Way of . . .Labor (it is a US publication) . . .Land . . .Water and . . .Wind”. Memories, dreamscapes and a close affinity to the natural world through which the poet travels are all integral to this collection. The poems and the poet are on an extended road trip, moving on, going to, but the “Go” in the subheadings is more than an instruction or an invitation to move. The titles, and the poems they hold together, suggest that to “Go the Way of. . .” involves not just moving, but also adopting the essence of the object in question and eventually ending like it: passing on, not just passing by.
The book contains many beautiful and lyrical poems and it is difficult to choose just which ones to quote as examples of the collection as a whole, but I was particularly taken with the short, opening poem, “The Juggler Tells His Children of Dreams”, and so I shall reproduce it in its entirety:

“wear no hard wedding bands
when juggling eggs
let the hands be a clock
circling with the softness of patience

what is falling free
will hatch in a nest of wind
soon you will toss up birds”

In poems such as “Treasure Hunt” the focus is on the elegiac with a lament for the World:

“is the earth an egg we blossom from
or one we’ve sat on too long?”

as well as ourselves:
“. . .something, be it death or attitude,
will blow us off our feet”

and in “Fading Pictures”, we find a lament for others:
“A leaf on the ground turns
to powder in the wind
as your sister spirit leaves.”

The collection as a whole, with its sustained melancholic tone, creates a threnody for the passing of life. If I have a criticism of the book it is, perhaps, that the tone is too invariable, too unrelenting, but then such criticism would be churlish in the face of so many lyrically beautiful poems.

The Hunted River is available from Shared Roads Press and Amazon.

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J.S. Watts lives and writes in the flatlands of East Anglia. Her poetry and short stories have appeared in a diversity of print and online magazines in Britain, Canada and the States. You can find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/JSWatts.