Wendy Holborow After the Silent Phone Call. 40 pp. ISBN-13 978-3-901993-50-3 (= PSPS 13) 
£5.00 (+ 1.00 p&p), €6.00 (+ 1.00 p&p), US$ 8.50 (+ 1.50 p&p) 

"These poems may be read as a narrative, rich in persuasive detail, of home and exile, a negotiation between what has been left behind and what has been attained, or half-attained. The success of the poems, however, lies in their ever-repeated proposition that if we are framed for such difficult negotiations, we are also framed to discover, through attention to beauty, to memory and to ourselves, a kind of salvation. In Holborow's poems, no doubt about it, the world can be ugly as well as beautiful, the self can be grounded in loneliness as well as in love; against the predicaments framed by narratives of home and exile, she sets, with considerable achieved composure, poems of grace, understanding and compassion."                                      Theo Dorgan

"The most moving, disarmingly raw early poems in this book concern a leave-taking of dead parents, friends, ex relationships, of the homeland Wales with its 'hearth of sheep' - and the ensuing exile and aloneness. Corfu, which is juxtaposed with Wales throughout, represents a new adventure. There old folk ways are in turn contrasted with the new world of tourists and planes. Nature itself is a constant with detailed almost painterly descriptions of its flora and fauna, transfused with classical mythology. A compelling read."                                     
                                                                                                                                         Patricia McCarthy


In this latest publication in the Poetry Salzburg Pamphlet Series the publisher has again selected a poet with outstanding individual voice.  In these poems Holborow identifies and evokes the solitary world we all inhabit at times, and show a life in Wales being overtaken with a new life in Greece. The collection turns on the poem Augury where we see the narrator move to Corfu and identify herself as an exile as she begins to explore Greece through its myths and the modern day life in her new home.  These are poems beautifully crafted in an
open accessible style with a strong feeling for place but a timelessness as she explores love and loss.  There is a sense of isolation and loneliness in these poems that puts them  under a microscope of close personal experience.
Outstanding poems – After the Silent Phone Call, Chameleon, When You Chance Upon, Threads.


Aida Birch commented: 

I love the variation in your collection; 'After The Silent Phone Call'. Your dedication to poetry is obvious. The craftsmanship of each poem. Your path in life, I believe,  often felt an emotional  chill. You bring the reader sentiment in your words, you weave them into delicate patterns:


Corfu sits heavily on my shoulders
like a shroud I want to shrug off.
I am like the mainland mountains,
sheered from view'

In your poem 'Rondeau on Langland Shore' you aptly show a vision of the four walkers to the reader;

'who clamp their hats from going astray,
distraught as maps hurtle away..'

Your poem has easy movement;

'Surfers ride the waves, shouts ricochet'

Review by Robert Nesbit (for Roundyhouse which closed down before the review was published).


This is a pamphlet collection of 21 poems, a few of up to 3 pages, and it seems to represent the author’s output over a period of some years – maybe in writing terms, since the notes tells us that her previous collection appeared in 1998, and certainly in terms of experience, with the dominant experience seeming to have been her time sojourning in Corfu between 1997 and 2011.


      Holborow writes well of the natural world, as in Focus and lines like

          one leaf, / its labyrinth of veins

and she writes extremely well about people. The best of her poetry springs from the meeting between the two. The point of Focus, in fact, is its elegy for her father.


      Old Greek Men is an unusual piece, in its portrait of the several rather seedy old men who seem to have propositioned the poet during her time in Greece. It seems to me a merit that the final draught of emotion is not one of bitterness but of a fine blend of irony and compassion. Ex-Lovers describes two past relationships, one harsh, the other gentler, more ephemeral, and there is the same sensitivity in the ambiance of the poem, its tribute to the latter and to

          ………………………..the complicated

          syntax of our forbidden love


      Tensions are always a fertile breeding-ground for poetry and an important quality of the substantial body of Corfu poems here is the tension between two separate senses of place. There is hiraeth certainly,

          A slaking thirst for Wales

but it is soon balanced, in Winter Postcards from Corfu, by a delight in

          Lemon trees laden with new fruit

Ithaka Holds Nothing for Her Now initially celebrates

          ………….Wales, the hearth of sheep 

but later, the poet’s reflections centre on

          emerald mountains, turquoise seas

Wales, at a time of bereavement, can only offer a rain which is


          a horizontal slant 


      Just occasionally I found a slightness in a few poems. Some of the longer ones occasionally drift towards the prosaic, as with

          we will inveigh against

          our predicament

The two short poems The Moody Barman and Barbarians satirize British lager-lout holiday-makers and I felt the target was too much of an easy one.

      But such moments are few. It is a hallmark of Wendy Holborow’s work that she so rarely travels on automatic pilot: at so many moments there is a sudden and striking freshness of phrase to give a poem a new lift and impetus:

          … trees like antlered animals rear

          into the sky

          ………the park bench which tiger-stripes

          the track

          ….. viridian-rivered valley walks


After the Silent Phone Call is vivid and compelling in its interests and both subtle and sensitive in its nuances. Highly recommended.



Excerpts from After the Silent Phone Call

After the Silent Phone Call parents, Lynn and Dwynwen 

After the silent phone call 
our daughter dries my tears, 
paper lanterns litter our lives. 
My son pyramids used teabags. 
A wintry sun throws prisms 
on the pair of terraria 
planted with ivy and African 
violets - violence shadows my prison. 

Princess purrs to newly-borns 
in the shower-tray, dispatching me 
to wallow in the bath. 
A storm swallows the light, 
bulls bellow its arrival, ducks 
& geese in serried rows 
hypnotised by the storm's eye, 
grey mare merges into greyness 
of fegged rain-soaked field. 
Cowering dogs return with nonchalance, 
with unconditional love as calm 
is restored. I vainly count 
days not to be crushed 
in the house at the 
end of the axle-breaking track. 

Walking in walled autumnal gardens, 
trees like antlered animals rear 
into the sky. Gathering fruit 
for wine, sloes for gin, 
inebriation sets in. I forage 
for mushrooms, the magic ones, 
imagination soars, friends, fairy-tale end. 

Carelessly, people slip through craquelure 
in paintings of imagined lives. 
Great clouds plough straight furrows, 
confront coffins at open graves. 
Lynn's smoking extinguishes his life. 
Dwynwen (Welsh goddess of love), 
her chocolate heart cracks, flakes 
and Fiona is brutally murdered. 
(I wish I'd told her 
of the solitary snow-drop 
that grew on the grave 
of the dog she loved.)

Winter Postcards from Corfu 

Sunday, and the first rains of Autumn. 
A slaking thirst for Wales 
which nothing can quench. 

Clutched into the past 
the words on my father's LPs 
catch on fish hooks 
in my throat. 

I hunger for the cadences 
of my language, 
long for viridian-rivered valley walks, 

but I must knit time, 
needles pivotal for motion 
like my mother clicked her way 
through the threads 
of her own threnodies. 

On days like this I want to kick 
the island from under me like 
a suicide kicks the stool. 

snuggled between two summers, 
submerged beneath blankets and quilts, 
as dark clouds bank for rain, 
sky, like blue-black ink, 
and a storm bellows. 

January, a yellow month - 
soft light on mainland mountains. 
Lemon trees laden with new fruit, 
and mimosa racemes raised by breezes 
sweep cobwebs from the sky.