In the Pause of Passing
This very handsome hardback book (beautifully put together by Northumberland’s Whin Still Press) features paintings of the North Pennines by Paul Strangroom and poems by Noel Connor. Save for the odd tree, the paintings are bereft of life, the moors captured in a kind of bleak majesty, often through the window of a remote and abandoned farmstead. And there’s nothing wish-washy about these watercolours with the landscapes and buildings weighted with history, the inexorable passing of time and disappeared communities. A useful commentary from Strangroom lets us in on his inspirations for particular paintings, but it’s Connor’s poems that really give voice to the ghosts of these long gone people: “Quiet as the cream rising / in this morning’s milk / I listen to the yard, / my children’s wind-blown squabbles, / their laughter rustling in the trees.” A poignant collection then, but also a celebration of the people who once worked the land; a task now left to the painters and poets.