Winter Migrants opens with Tom Pickard’s prize-winning sequence Lark & Merlin, an erotic pursuit over the hills and fells of the poet’s Northern-English homeland. Stotting clough and gill in sneaping winds, leaping burns by backlit larches, waves of sleek grass skiffing mist ... here, says the poet, ‘the weather is overseer’. The borders between body and landscape, desire and object, blur in the mammal heat of pursuit, of a lover, of a self, insatiable and unresolvable.
There follows a selection from the Fiends Fell Journals, a haibun or poetry-diary, composed over the decade Pickard lived alone on the wind-blown North Pennines. Short poems dedicated to friends and acerbic, satirical poems lend the second half of Winter Migrants a playful warmth and tonic mischief. As the collection draws to a close, the poems return to the familiar horizon of Solway Firth, the estuary ‘where winter migrants gather in long black lines’, and the world, cooled now both inside and out, quells: a curlew gifts its ‘estuary echo’; gulls make a ‘confetti flurry’ above the shoreline; and clouds, once pale and flitting, pour purple and gold, ‘a mercury whisper of tipped-in light’.