After a hard fought contest – it always is – Anne Ryland’s ‘stunning’ ‘original’ ‘vivid and unexpected’ prose poem ‘In Her Bones’ is the Ink Sweat & Tears Pick of the Month for May 2018. And it is testament to Anne’s skill that she brought the articulated skeleton that is Agnes, ‘completely at home in her two hundred and six bones’, effectively to life. We wanted to know more.
Anne has published two collections: Autumnologist (shortlisted for The Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2006) and The Unmothering Class (2011). Recent poems have appeared in Oxford Poetry, Agenda and Long Poem Magazine. Her website is http://anneryland.co.uk
Anne has asked that her £10 ‘prize’ be donated to Carers UK, a charity dedicated to making life better for carers.
In Her Bones
I discover her just off Pier Road, sitting on the bench that overlooks the river. Draped on the wooden slats, right femur resting on left, Agnes is completely at home in her two hundred and six bones. Relieved of padding and muscle, of her woman-paraphernalia (I note the handbag years have dragged her right clavicle down), her hinges and locks are exposed, her irregularities.
I lower myself onto the bench beside her. We share small hands and feet, but Agnes is now pure vertebrate; I see her spine’s ability to spring, absorb shock. Her pelvis has acquired a creamish lustre, a cradle opening to receive sunlight, but it would be impolite to place my palm in her ilium. Instead, I shift a little closer to inspect the jigsaw pieces of her skull. She carries on staring out towards the North Sea, an expression of Ah – behind her orbits. Might a bird seek refuge in her ribcage?
Agnes has no need of breath. The wind is her breath, passing through her bars, her lacunae, as if she were an instrument being tuned. Despite her loosened appearance, Agnes is incurably informative. She embodies the Greek word ‘pneuma’, meaning that which is breathed – or blown.
Agnes is reluctant to disperse or lie down. I’m unsure whether she’s a companion, or a proxy who’s been hiding in one of my recesses. For now, she settles into tide watch. I will wait. Agnes, at her most osseous, must have a voice – chalky, no … airy, like the voice of a haar.
Voters’ comments included:
‘In Her Bones’ is a poem that really evokes a sense of peace and stillness. I loved the words and rhythm of this poem and the setting it describes.
The subject matter is very descriptive, giving one the feeling of being there, sitting next to Agnes & experiencing what she sees so that is why it gets my vote.
I can just picture Agnes on the bench staring out to sea eternally. Very powerful.
Original in conception and execution – graphic, brave and unpredictable – wonderful tender tone.
It’s so original in subject matter and intriguing. I love the language of the skeleton too
A novel prose poem (excuse the pun) –
[I chose it] because this is the first prose-poem I’ve come across which manages to hold and justify its shape without losing movement and momentum, like an articulated and articulate skeleton in fact.
Very intriguing imagery and beautifully worked concept of skeleton as eccentric person .
Captures the atmosphere of Berwick Pier and is a skilful use of [a] prose poem