Oswald and Greenman are on the same wavelength, and this is a magical collaboration. Oswald speaks of her hope for an "unsettling pleasure [reading this book], like walking through a garden at night, when the plants come right up to the edges of their names and then beyond them." Greenman echoes with her own dark side, the unsettling pleasure of the etching process: "The flowers themselves act on my mind... they bite into me."
Jessica Greenman's etchings are reprinted here in black and white, appearing as though they have been pencilled in on tracing paper. It's a beautiful effect: filigree intensity & delicate intricacy combine to create images of wild flowers that are at once as deep as if they were carved onto the page, and yet insubstantial, as though seen through a morning mist.
It's hard to imagine a more complimentary style of illustration for Oswald's poetry, which is itself written in filigree language, being a both intense, and delicate, experience. Her poems are a superb selection of personifications: weeds and flowers made human.
"Daisy" murmurs of childhood associations, but ends with a sinister bite:
I will push my nail
into her neck and make
a lovely necklace out of her green bones
"Bastard Toadflax" lives up to his name, in a tongue-in-cheek incarnation:
slides over one eyebrow.
Only swearing can help now.
And "Snowdrop" is "just a frozen melting glow/of water swollen to the point of falling".
Alice Oswald's poetry always brings me to adjectives that describe light - in the sense of brightness; her work shines, and just keeps getting better. Fans of any of her other works, are sure to enjoy this, her poems speaking with her characteristic clarity and intelligence, whilst hinting at hidden darknesses.
And the hardback, well worth the extra money, is finished in pale blue and brown; a beautiful addition to any shelf. Buy it for friends who love Alice Oswald, or Jessica Greenman, or for yourself, if you have ever looked into the faces of flowers and wondered...
Oh, and the downside? With just 24 poems in its pages, Weeds & Wild Flowers will leave you wanting more.