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Book of the Month
 February 2023


  Nightjars, all the way from the heart...


     The new poetry collection, Nightjars, by London-based Z.R. Ghani and Glasgow-based Andy MacGregor, is a unique and memorable collaboration, mesmerizingly beautiful and haunting to the last word.


Nightjars addresses themes of life’s transience, the cost of grief, the loss of relationships and the struggle to keep going. In 'What lies concealed', A.M. writes,


                     But how can we witness the invisible

                     when the sun goes down behind the staggered pines

                     …and nothing I see or hear

                     will ever be the same again?


And in' Invisible paths', Z.G. writes,


                     I think of you more often than I’ll admit

                     when the emptiness has chewed away at the world


With great originality, each poem springs from the one before, as if born together.  By borrowing key phrases and images from each other, the authors have written a poetry pas de deux, a word-ballet with each piece lending words to the next in a daisy-chain of imagery and emotion.


Again in 'Invisible Paths', Z.G. writes:


                         I hear you in the street lamps that come on

                         to tally up another evening, or in the laughter

                         of others and I fail to join in


Then in 'Shadow boxing', A.M. writes:


                         The street lamps that come on

                          to tally up another evening

                          stitch a ragged wound of illumination

                          all the way from the heart


Words echo and repeat and lead the way to the next piece, weaving a moving tapestry of endings and beginnings.  There is a richness here, a richness of feeling and thought that flows from piece to piece, dressed not only in beautiful language, but also in depth of experience: love, loss and hope. These are poems about inner landscapes and emotional terrain.


In 'Star-catchers', Z.G. writes:


                          I have wanted to drop my lantern in the snow,

                          cover those miles like a sentence across the page,

                          accept the hum of total silence, as it hurts and heals


And, in 'You said nothing of the dawn', A.M. writes:


                         Though the morning lies a long way ahead,

                         I have wanted to drop my lantern in the snow,

                         to watch its light spill out across the land

                         and pile in drifts against hedge and wall.


I love this image of the lantern in the snow, searching for life’s meaning and guidance, casting its light in a drift.


I cannot overstate the beauty of the writing in this collection. It is effortless and moving, drawing us into the authors’ contemplative melancholy with elegant phrasing and life-truths: ‘I’ve come to see there is no descent ahead/just the land always rising’, ‘My mind is a mountain/setting free it’s fledgling seeds’, ‘As the night sky unveils its silk road…’, ‘Winged ones land/gently like murmured condolences’. These are words to savor, to reread.


Yes, there are disparate references - churchyards and frankincense, cheap music and even the constellation of a slug (!) - but the threads of emotional resonance and philosophies ring through them, almost as one piece and ensures that, as readers, we are constantly surprised by invention.


The final poem, itself titled 'Nightjars' and signed by both writers, asks the fabulous question, “Is this the Sunday of all my days?” It summons the book’s central themes of life’s impermanence, the pain of losing what one has loved, and the perpetual search for a glimmer of happiness. “The light bows its last behind the spire like a bird…”


This is painterly work, rich in universal truths and masterful in imagery. These are two of our own best poets, clasping hands and running through the trees, writing from their collective hearts and minds.  As one, they are music.   


                                                                                                              –Regine Ebner, January 2023

Regine Ebner is a poet from the Sonoran Desert. Her collection 'Oxidised Pennies' is published by Alien Buddha Press.

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