Rebecca Gethin - a Palewell Press author
Rebecca Gethin lives on Dartmoor in Devon and writes passionately about species extinction.
Vanishings, published by Palewell Press in 2020, is her fourth poetry collection.
Review by Sarah Watkinson
"I read this book with eager delight, enjoying the revelations of every poem. The title, ‘vanishings’ evokes not only the elusiveness of wild creatures in their habitats, under cover most of the time, but also their
inexorable extinction, evicted by human encroachment from their ancestral habitats. Rebecca...conjures wild animals with an almost maternal empathy, tenderly observant and knowledgeable of their habits and hiding places.
These are respectful portraits, with no trace of sentimentality or anthropomorphism; their tone holds a delicate balance between the elegiac and optimistic, and the language dazzles with its aptness and originality.
On a second and third reading, I was in awe of the skill with which Gethin achieves her effects. Like several in the collection, the opening poem, ‘Extinct 800 years but’ does not name the animal. Instead, it
enacts a rescue from extinction by revealing the lost species gradually, through riddling place names and allusions to its behaviours, so that we gradually recognise the un-named creature, whose name
‘lingers only in lost place names’. There’s a Les Murray-like verbal inventiveness; water-voles take part in ‘bicker and toothicuffs’. The procession of numerous endangered species is drawn from across the
whole animal kingdom including deer, harvest mice, toadlets, moths, bats and spiders. References to the animal spirits of the human imagination give the book special poignancy; how we long to have our landscapes
inhabited, and not just by other humans."
Review by Susan Richardson
"With sensitivity and linguistic panache, Rebecca Gethin's Vanishings takes the reader on a journey from Dartmoor to Shetland, conjuring from mud, wave, rock, leaf and stem an exhilarating range of endangered creatures.
Though she engages with themes of transience and fragility, each animal, be it the better-known hedgehog and cuckoo, or the less familiar violet ground beetle and narrow-headed ant, is vividly present on the page.
Her commitment to detail and scientific accuracy are impressive, yet there is a spiritual dimension to the poet's quest to glimpse these vulnerable creatures too – the otter wanders a territory filled with 'rosaries of kelp',
while after an epiphanic sighting of a hump-backed whale, the air's 'a hymn, the sea/ a psalm in counterpoint'. The imagery, sound patterns and inventiveness of language in these poems are dazzling, as is the way
in which a profound connection with the more-than-human evolves over the course of the collection. This memorably peaks in 'Adder' when poet and snake exchange an indelible gaze 'as though we were both caught/on
the edge of our deaths'."
Rebecca's previous publications include A Sprig of Rowan (Three Drops Press 2017), All the Time in the World (Cinnamon Press 2017), A Handful of Water (Cinnamon Press) and
two novels. In 2017 she edited an anthology of poems about elephants to help raise money for an elephant orphanage in Kenya. Rebecca has been a Hawthornden Fellow and jointly won the 2018 Coast to Coast Pamphlet
competition with Messages, a small, limited edition pamphlet. She was awarded a writing residency at Brisons Veor in Cornwall and Marble will publish a chapbook called Fathom. Features include Ways with Words at
Dartington, Words and Ears, Pembroke Poets in Oxford, Buzzwords in Cheltenham and she represented Coast to Coast to Coast at Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. She has also been a Poetry School tutor.