Rebecca Gethin – “A Handful of Water” poetry collection

Becky Gethin is a multi-talented writer of poetry and novels. And a good friend of mine. Her blog posts cover her treks high up in the Italian Alps, walks around Dartmoor, poetry happenings and just about anything! She regularly features other writers. It’s a blog well worth subscribing to.

Earlier this year, Cinnamon Press published Becky’s  A Handful of Water.

Rebecca Gethin - A Handful of Water

I asked Becky if I could post one of the  poems from her new book. And she said -yes. One of the fascinating things about  A Handful of Water is how Becky weaves together a wide range of subject matter – many places, times, landscapes and people. And that’s the thing that struck me when I recently re-read this fine collection – how she brings it all together – the material of life.

There’s an excellent interview with Becky  at the Advancing Poetry blog.


Here’s the poem I chose:


Summer rain has fattened the river,
the waters alert, dark as a holt.

Down the race currents gather,
jostling each other to merge

in the pool below. Under-tensions
wrinkle the surface. A ripple firms

into a jink of fur, undulates
into a clay-coloured pelt.

Purpose flows from whiskers
into the tip of a straight-ruddered tail

as he rides the undertow, steers through
the backwash, burrows the depths.

I first read about this poem (though not the poem itself) at Becky’s blog – where she said it was included in Otter Country by Miriam Darlinton. so I was pleased to find it in A Handful of Water.

I distinctly remember the first time I read “Fluent”, thinking to myself what a perfect metaphor – river as an animal. BUT then the poem turned and those whiskers emerged –  it gave me a delightful jolt of surprise to see that otter appear. And everything “flowing with purpose”. It’s a satisfying  and elegantly written poem – with many undercurrents and layers of meaning. The wonderful title suggests much to me.

Check out this National Geographic photographer’s blog post – up close and personal with British otters:

I started thinking about nature writing. And I ended up doing googling and reading 2 or 3 posts about eco-poetics. And got rather confused about the term and how it’s being used these days.

But I came back to and re-read this article by Forrest Gander . I like how the title is called “What Is Eco-Poetry?” That’s a good start.

This is the paragraph which I can relate to several aspects of Becky’s “Fluent” poem:

But can poetry be ecological?
Can it display or be invested with values that acknowledge the economy of interrelationship between human and non-human realms? Aside from issues of theme and reference, how might syntax, line break, or the shape of the poem on the page express an ecological ethics? If our perceptual experience is mostly palimpsestic or endlessly juxtaposed and fragmented; if events rarely have discreet beginnings or endings but only layers, duration, and transitions; if natural processes are already altered by and responsive to human observation, how does poetry register the complex interdependency that draws us into a dialogue with the world?

It seems to me that Becky has written an eco-poem. She does it in an understated way which works beautifully – giving us an opportunity to see our interconnected world perhaps a little bit clearer.

There’s a special treat in that article by Gander. Please, please check out this link and play the short video clip – and you’ll see an owl from an unusual vantage point. Or maybe it’s an otter … hee hee



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