Review: Paul Brookes, These Random Acts of Wildness and Othernesses

These Random Acts of Wildness with my Mom’s Paintings

Paul Brookes, Otherness (Jane’s Studio Press 2023) and These Random Acts of Wildness (Glasshouse Press, 2022)

Paul Brookes’ These Random Acts of Wildness is an amazing tour de force. In this collection, Brookes manages to explore nature in all its wild glory and the human compulsion to tame it within the confines of the sonnet form. Along the way, he explores family life, grief, love, loneliness, death, and memories.

In “Wildlife Map,” Brookes’ wit shines through:

“Fledglings step or are pushed over the brink,
by anxious mams wanting an empty nest. . .

brought into the home for the owners screams
To register a culture shock of extremes.”

In “I Make A Cuppa,” Brookes reveals truths in his poignant poem–
we drink tea at the cost of workers who harvest it, and at the risk of remembering—

“We collect the wild as ornamental,
Domesticate, put on a pedestal.”

This collection bravely reveals childhood and adult loneliness and being bullied, but it is “My Bella” that affected me the most. Anyone who has had a beloved animal companion will understand.

“Now nothing calms my heart, as she once did,
Hollowness in my lap, no soft greeting
as I arrive. No brushing my cheek . . .

When I don’t see her for days I’m alone.”

In Othernesses, Brookes once again asks us to look closely at the world around us. Again, in sonnet form, Brookes shares the life of bees and beetles, bitterns and seagulls, the sea, ghosts, the night. He asks us to see spiders and erosion, to

“See Everything You
want or need, . .

Swap one sensation for inspiration,
Widen a mind in grey desperation.”

My favorite poem in this collection might be “Sweet Pollen,” in which Paul Brookes magically seems to become a bee.

“I will dance when home is reached to tell all
Where sweet pollen will be found, waggle tap
The route after u
nloading my food haul.”

Jane Cornwell’s delightful illustrations throughout the book, add to its appeal.

Otherness is available here.
I believe copies of These Random Acts of Wildness are limited and available only through the author.

Paul Brookes:
Twitter: @PaulDragonwolf1

Folktober Challenge, Day 31

The final day of the challenge. Thank you to Paul Brookes for this fascinating October folklore challenge. You can see today’s images and read the responses here.

Inspired by 2.31 The Sack Man

The Sack Man

The Sack Man will take you away,
if you are not good, if you do not obey,

he’ll toss you in his sack
and never ever bring you back.

So say parents, teachers, priests, and nuns–
while their children cry at night,

see shapes in shadows,
ghouls and ghosts that glower–
midnight’s power–

frozen in fear, tongue-tied in terror,
they wait for daylight,

they feel love mixed with panic,
hope rusts, never gleams–
they are too scared to dream.

Folktober Challenge, Day 30

Inspired by F1.30 The Morrigan

The Morrigan

They carry wisdom on their wings,
caw and shout, but few will listen,
they whisper to the wounded and dead,
here we’re connected, here’s the thread

between Earth and time
what comes after has been before,
still men insist they’re crows of war–

but their ferocity is not for sword, spear,
gold, or sky above,
their fierce power comes from motherlove—

sister goddesses, a triad encircled,
black feathered they stand,
guardians of their children
protectors of the land.

For the penultimate day of Paul Brookes’ month-long Folktober Challenge. You can see the images and read the responses here.

Folktober Challenge, Day 29

Inspired by E2.29 Caboclos

River Protector

Born of last wishes
of river blues-greens, and
the hopes of fins and feathered things.

He protects with fierceness,
the cost of creating a monster,
is rage. His anger born of loneliness,
of being singular and strange.

Like a fish, he has one eye—
on either side of his head,
and he lives surrounded by gold,
that you will never find.

He’s the river’s challenger,
without breath of his own.
Only humans try to claim him,
the river’s creatures leave him alone.

For Paul Brookes’ Folktober Challenge. We’re getting near the end! You can see the images and read the responses here. This one was another one new to me.

Folktober Challenge, Day 28

Inspired by F2. 28 Kunekune


Have you seen it? Slender, twisting,
in the rice field, like a ghostly figured light
when the plants are green, the sky bright blue.
It’s mesmerizing as it dances,
when no wind is there. You yawn over lunch,
think you dreamt what you’d seen.

But there’s your friend,
standing where it was. His eyes now blank,
his mind now gone, and you know
what you saw–it wasn’t a dream.

For Paul Brookes’ Folktober Challenge. You can see the images and read the other responses here.

Folktober Challenge, Day 27

Inspired by 2.27, Sirin and Alkonost, The Birds of Joy and Sorrow

Sirin and Alkonost

In this time of in-between,
when only pine and fir stay green,
the other leaves turn red and brown,
and fog tiptoes in to obscure sight
but carries sound.

Look up, and you might see,
the two sisters in a tree,
on a bough of oak or birch,
there they sit–
or rather perch.

They sing of joy and sorrow,
they make you forget tomorrow,
they are beautiful, their songs enchanting
owl and raven winged—
they sing, entrancing.

Golden Sirin should remain a stranger,
her wondrous voice lures you to danger.
Raven Alkonost, is difficult to find—
as happiness is fleeting—
her song may make you lose your mind.

The world you thought you had,
beauty that may not make you glad.
Twin-edged, sorrow and delight,
bird-women of joy and sorrow,
bring both darkness and light.

In this time of in-between,
beware of the invisible and the seen
stay clear
of birds with women’s faces and hair,
run from their songs that float in the air.

For Paul Brookes’ Folktober Challenge. I think this time everyone was drawn to the same image. It’s hard to resist bird-women. You can see the images and responses here.

Folktober, Day 26

Inspired by 1.26 Ollipheist and F2.26 Boto Encanto

Water Creatures
The sea serpent swallowed the girl
who angered the salmon of knowledge,
the salmon, seemingly less than full of wisdom
and the serpent a monster with little brain.
He ate the piper, who went on
playing—till the Oilliphéist spit him out
perhaps even monsters cannot silence a piper.

The river holds secrets,
not all is what it seems
a handsome man may drink and flirt,
but he will not take off his hat.
The women he seduces, left brooding,
expecting more—
as he tosses his hat, takes his dolphin form,
dives back into the river.

For Paul Brookes’ Folktober Challenge. You can see the images and read the responses here.

Folktober Challenge, Day 25

Inspired by 1.25, Salmon of Knowledge

Salmon of Knowledge

Wisdom dropped from the hazel tree
in weighty nuts the salmon ate.
He swam through water wide and blue,
until the young man cast and viewed
bright silver-scales caught with his bait.

Do not eat it, Fionn was told.
but fry-burned, raised his thumb to lips,
gained wisdom from the tree and fish.
I wonder what the salmon wished–
a legend by hero eclipsed.

For Paul Brookes’ month-long Folktober Challenge. You can see the images and read the other responses here.

Folktober Challenge, Day 24

Inspired by F2. 24 Boitata and F3.24, Black-eyed Children

Eyes of Fire and Chill

Eyes take in the light, reflect and refract,
heated observation burns with fury–
a gaze that combusts to protect,
regenerating by fire to make the world right,

and then the opposite,

dead souls with eyes of bottomless black.
What makes us turn children into demons—
brightest hope dashed and fears projected,
we see the monsters within.

For Paul Brookes’ Folktober Challenge. You can see the images and read the other responses here.

Folktober Challenge, Day 23

Inspired by all three images

How We See Them

Our basest natures conjure up
the one-legged imps, foul-smelling
creatures of the night,
and grief-stricken women in white,
who tend the ill with guilt-tinged care–
but the white-maned waves gallop
across the world, into the air, magnificent,
the swiftest creatures,
nature and imagination, alive.

For Paul Brookes’ Folktober Challenge. You can see the images and read the responses here.