Review of ‘Fan-peckled’ by Margaret Adkins

Thank you Margaret Adkins for this generous and detailed review of our book!

On her website, Margaret writes:

‘Fan-Peckled’ is a pamphlet of twelve poems by Jean Atkin, each illustrated by Katy Alston. An intuitive collaboration between poet and illustrator, it explores idiomatic language of historic Shropshire.

The pamphlet is inspired by The Shropshire Word-Book, A Glossary of Archaic and Provincial Words, Etc., Used in the County. Georgina F. Jackson. First published by Adnitt & Naunton Shrewsbury (1879).

The title of each poem is a selected word from this glossary and is followed by an epigraph to define it.

The poems are written in the third person, skilfully placing the reader in the margin that both divides and glues archaic and contemporary times. Written in traditional form, they are founded on a loose rural narrative and many contain named individuals.

Although the focus is on the historical lexicon of a specific west midlands region, it is clear that the words we choose, consciously or unconsciously, play a role in the way we perceive the world.

This is not a romanticised collection. Readers encounter flooding, an abused work horse and a labourer needing to transfer skills in a time of changing economics. It is a collection of acute, tender observations and a reminder that although the years pass, what matters remains and people’s sensibilities continue as before, regardless. We note worn pickets and hear the same ‘clicket’ if we fasten the old gate, now covered with lichen and repaired again and again with bits to hand. We may not hear a red kite being called a ‘glid’ anymore, but we watch as one ‘lifts out of the wood / like a loaf rising’ just as our predecessors would have.

shalligonaked glid geoltitudes clicket

fan-peckled barley child fisk keffel

This archaic vocabulary was once modern, current and in common use.

Clearly the glossary has been carefully researched by both poet and illustrator. History has been scrutinised to make an authentic record and to imagine old Shropshire through a dozen obsolete words. The archaic vocabulary was once modern, current and in common use. It identified the locals from the outsiders. Today, more geographically mobile than previous generations, our language is less regional and more generic. Although each double page of Fan-peckled is looking back, when I reached the end, I found I was looking forwards and wondering who might research contemporary vernacular, and what future conclusions will be made regarding the modern culture of today, based on what will become archaic idioms such as: bucket list, baby brain, digital divide, global search, dark web…

To read the rest of Margaret’s review on her beautiful website, just click here.

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