Rose Cook & ‘Hearth’

Rose Cook is the latest poet to be featured here. Hearth is her newest collection, her fourth and like Notes from a Bright Field is published by the discerning Cultured Llama. 

I’ll have to start with the title which must be one of the most beautiful and most inspired titles ever. I am totally in love with this word and in fact suffer badly from title-sickness over it.  But I’d never be able to breathe it in the way Rose could and I can imagine her saying it in her Rose-voice, giving everyone a shiver of tingly feelings. And then there’s the matter of the cover which is stunning. The book is ‘dedicated to Brigid, Goddess of Hearth and Poetry, and to my mother, along with all who tend the fire’.


And the poems?  Well, I don’t know what to say because they all give me goose pimples and it’s hard to be articulate about something that does that.  Rose has a way of writing about personal experiences in a totally unsentimental way, while being characteristically frank. By employing simple but precise language each poem pierces your heart.  She writes about motherhood, her son’s fall, her grief for the loss of her own mother presented through everyday actions like folding sheets, seasons, plants and wild creatures (in particular hares) and all are bound together by her distinctively observant eye, her compassion.

I think it’s her acceptance of life’s precariousness and what our bodies know about us that is a strong binding thread. She actually celebrates it as in this poem (and in many others):

How Close to Breaking

You were walking the promenade towards me,

carrying a ball and smiling.

Grief lurched in to my heart, spreading like a bruise

so the dark cloud of starlings dancing

and the collapsed ballroom on the pier

and the punk strutting with his mouth studs

and cockerel hair glued into peaks

and the shepherd’s delight sunset

all swam round our heads

and did not take the sadness away.


It is our fragility

how close to breaking we must live.

To me, it is the direction posed by the word ‘so’ in line 4 and the last ‘and’ in line 10 (as in ‘and did not take the sadness away’0 that so deftly complicates this poem and makes you think.  So simply done and very powerful.

I think some of Rose’s poems have the clarity of photography in which she is also expert.  You can see Rose’s actual photographs here  but there are lots of others ( surreal, ordinary and strange) there to meditate on as well. This tiny vignette comes from Wash Day where you’ll see what I mean about emotion being rooted in everyday detail and being so very visual:

‘Our shirts flutter like prayer flags,

clean as snowdrops, as new beginnings.

Tea, she says, let’s have tea.’

I’ll just quote Rosie Jackson (author of the wondrous The Light Box) who wrote this about Hearth:

‘These are numinous poems which register human fragility, yet their awareness of ‘how close to breaking we must live’ serves to strengthen their grateful celebration of life, with its moments of human tenderness and natural beauty. Deeply felt portraits of the landscape – owls, hares, egrets, rain, sea, cherry trees – along with simple acts like folding sheets, or a daughter’s visit, drop us into ‘a marvellous time’, an ‘under-dream of existence’ and become vehicles for light and awakening. Rose Cook’s ‘glimpse through’ the world makes Hearth a sensitive, haunting collection, and reminds us of our soul’s priorities.’

Yes, it’s Rose’s understanding of the ‘under-dream of existence’ that marks this book as very, very special.  I myself couldn’t be without it.

To end, I’d like to thank Rose for being another of the elephant poets and her poem, Elephant  was the start of the Poetry of Elephants anthology.  She had two in the book and the other is no less wonderful.  Hearing her read this musical poem slowly and thoughtfully is magic:


I am slow.

I am sway.

I am echo.

The great earth holds me.

I am ship. I am flow.

My bones are of whales.


I am large and grateful. I move with no hurry.

There is time. We have time.

Watch my eye. With it I see you and the shine of colour,

which fills me till my grey skin rustles.

I know there is an always happiness here

even in the mud. The frog knows.


Follow me.

We will go in procession.

Follow and feel the rhythm of my walk.

Slow, slow.

My steps sway you,

I will rock you to beyond yourself.

Be yourself

Be more than you have ever been.

Be what you have always been.

Be with me.

Be with me.

Follow. Follow me.




About Rebecca Gethin

Rebecca Gethin is a poet and a novelist. Cinnamon Press published her third collection, All the Time in the World in 2017. Another pamphlet is forthcoming with Three Drops Press. Her second novel, What the horses heard, was published by Cinnamon Press in May 2014. Her second poetry collection - A Handful of Water - was published by Cinnamon in 2013. Her first - River is the Plural of Rain - was published by Oversteps Books in 2009. Her novel Liar Dice won the Cinnamon Press Novel Writing Award in 2010 and was published in 2011. She lives on Dartmoor and writes occasional pieces about wildlife and nature. Her poems appear in a variety of poetry magazines and in several anthologies.
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4 Responses to Rose Cook & ‘Hearth’

  1. E.E. Nobbs says:

    A fine introduction by Rebecca and a fine selection of poems by Rose! Each striking and memorable in their own way. I am also very much enjoying the photography at Rose’s website. Thank you both 🙂

  2. That is nice to know….and there are more photos to see on that link.

  3. rose cook says:

    Dear Becky oh wow, that is a lovely review…thank you so much x So kind of you to take the time, so generous.

    So I will float into the week… and send you and Chris much love for yours, this life, this life, love Rose xx


    • Sthought of better things i could have said…for example you can find heart, earth,art, hear and hearth in your title and in yourcollectio of poems. That would have been just right!

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