Review: Flocks of Words by Kate Innes

Kate Innes, Flocks of Words, Mindforest Press, 2017. ISBN: 978-0993483738

In Flocks of Words Kate Innes applies her extensive knowledge of history, mythology and archaeology to the natural world, exploring the landscape with a curator’s eye for detail and awareness of context. In the title poem she imagines a ‘country where words were like birds’, where they migrate, returning ‘fat with the food of foreign meanings’. This curiosity of both entomologist and naturalist inhabits a number of the poems as she explores not only the flora and fauna of her environment, but also the challenge and process of capturing them on the page. Her writing echoes the creativity of the painter who will ‘take this day into his mind’s eye – into another place – another sky’ (Breton House) or a potter who will leave a ‘mark of swirls and whorls’, turning a material ‘about to change’ into a vessel on which he will ‘scratch our human state’ (Clay).

Much of this collection recalls those from whom we have inherited the landscape and our appreciation of it: the hunters and cave painters of Southern France; the 15th century celebrants of Lilleshall Abbey; poets Christina Rossetti and TS Eliot; artists Valazquez and Van der Weyden, and naturalist Charles Darwin. Yet further back, Innes refers to the pre-history of a ‘tender stem turned stone, ammonitic forms and the calcified sponges of the sea’ (Quarried) and beyond that to constellations, light years ago, ‘spilling darkness in a precise and careless arc’ (Constellation). Here too is a Creation Myth, ‘before time was measured and marked’.

But this is no nostalgia-fest. In Flocks of Words Innes celebrates the dangers of nature ‘talon, tooth and claw’ (Leverets) and recognises the ‘exquisite things that grow from the dead’ (Quarried). In doing so she offers the reader a collection which is rich in detail, well-crafted and thought-provoking.

Angi Holden


You can buy Flocks of Words here.

Angi Holden is a freelance writer and creative writing tutor. Her work includes adult & children’s poetry, short stories & flash fictions, published online and in print anthologies. In 2015 she co-edited the National Flash Fiction Day anthology. She brings a wide range of personal experience to her writing, alongside a passion for lifelong learning. Her pamphlet Spools of Thread won the inaugural Mother’s Milk Pamphlet Prize.

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