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Her Whereabouts
by Joanna Guthrie
£10 (pub. 2023)

Where does personal grief end and ecological grief begin? How does the line between these spheres hold, and how do the parallels between them manifest? How do we articulate and honour pain and unthinkable loss - for ourselves and for our world? And how might we learn to navigate the storms that are presenting themselves?

At a time of crisis for the deteriorating body of Earth and for the stroke-stricken body of her own mother – two desperately precious, sustaining organisms – Joanna Guthrie uses her second collection to bear witness to the present and glance at the near future,  in a body of poems which enact devout noticing as a form of activism.

Her Whereabouts sits with failing bodies and ecosystems,  while holding fierce dedication to finding blessings as well as pessimisms among the wreckage –  things to exalt even as we move towards the edge. Characteristically, many of the poems inhabit places where the human becomes the more-than human;  where the boundaries increasingly blur. They look at how we respond– as activists, as human beings, as daughters – and what catches the eye in the journey.  Unexpected elements become representative of the mother, who is both everywhere and nowhere.

In their entwining griefs, in unflinching laments and eulogies, the poems are lit with the almost hallucinatory, burnished beauty of a voice living through times of unprecedented personal and communal challenge, and tending the damage: ‘this whole new time a furnace/ into which we threw it all/ and waited to see what emerged from the firing.’


Praise for Her Whereabouts:

“Where in our time is the poet? Not, according to this collection, with the Victorian baboon stranded in the museum ‘within the glass box they gave him’. No. She’s out and about in the world we know now, in the almost too much with us world of care home, ecological concern. What can you make of a long-loved mother stranded in care after two major strokes who is sometimes here and sometimes otherwhere? What can you make with her? Many poems here invite us to share an ongoing exploration generous in its honesty and vulnerability: a portrait of a mother both uniquely individual and yet here for all of us as Everymother is.
As is the Earth, the natural world - become a source of dread in reminding us of the impending climate disaster we face and yet being recourse, healing, still. In ‘Turquoise occasional’: ‘I wait for the kingfisher / by the flat khaki water’ and when it comes ‘it is kindness piercing / out of the landscape’. In spite of the enormities it deals in, Her Whereabouts is a collection brimful of the courage, energy, common sense and humour we are all in such need of now and in the time to come. Take it with water!”

Gillian Allnutt


“In her ambitious and accomplished second collection, Joanna Guthrie writes searchingly about the intimate cost of love in times of personal and ecological crisis, and indeed, in Guthrie's receptive imagination, they may even be considered two sides of the same coin. Fierce, tender, resilient and frequently dazzling in their control of phrase and image, these are poems of clear-eyed compassion that will leave you freshly attuned to the ways in which acts of observation may themselves become a form of care and activism.”

Tiffany Atkinson


Longshore Drift

How everything is starker on the shore,

how families stand out brightly, like rosettes

how sheer the strand is here

wing of shingle pared down by wind

to meet the sea at one side

and green marsh along the other.

How much like a stage it is, yes

everywhere, but here most of all.

How poignant we are, how rueful,

how very alive, how pleasant, how sad.

How much the littleness of us shows up

out here. How close I am to nudging

the sea at this second and saying: rise up

get on with it, lose us altogether, now you’ve started.


(from Her Whereabouts)

Objects for Private Devotion

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