Stranger in the Mask of a Deer

‘Dreamer, can you cast your mind back to before you were islanded?’

This thoughtful and thought-provoking book-length poem is described by its author, Richard Skelton, as a ‘call-and-response from the present to the past’. The text drifts into a dream-like imagining of the end of the last Ice Age, when nomadic groups of hunter-gatherers returned to lands that would become Britain (the historical and archaeological context behind this narrative is detailed in a concluding section of ‘notes’).

Short, rhythmic phrases flow together in rippling columns to create an almost chant-like effect. Masks move in and out of focus as a recurring theme – symbolic, shamanic, sometimes representing the true self and sometimes donned in an ‘act of likening’ that is reminiscent of the famous Mesolithic ‘frontlets’ crafted from red deer skulls at Star Carr (see CA 349). Evocative phrases encourage a meditative mood: ‘there are other shatter marks more elusive than flint’.

Review by CH.
Stranger in the Mask of a Deer, Richard Skelton, Penned in the Margins, £9.99, ISBN 978-1908058843.