Red Tree is the first collection of poems by Daniela Nunnari. The book is a chronicle moving from yearning through change to growth and finally comfort. As you read the collection you get a sense of the young poet gaining her wings, both in her life and in her craft, progressing to a glimmer of the maturity of the later poems. Time Flies presents the museum as the nursery for new ideas, Ripper highlights the unconditional love for the pet who brings undead dinner home. The later poems Storm and Letting the Weather in paint the weather as an agent of change and renewal.
However, once you get to the halfway point the poems become assured, mature and the craft better applied. Submersed a metaphor of drowning and Optrex the ‘Tears in a bottle’ and ‘witch in water’ begin a run of well crafted poems all of which are a joy to read, set free to fly on their own. There is no longer a sense that the poet is dictating our understanding but she allows the reader to interact with the words and develop their own images and understanding. In Buoy we understand the floating symbol of safety and security anchored and unable to hide from the vicissitudes of storm and tempest but a question remains. Who is ‘she’ and by inference, who is the buoy?
In Wing Envy Daniela ponders on those periods when a poet’s words simply do not come, yet every other writer you know is working by the bookload: “My words have escaped me/They flow from friend’s fingers,”. Towards the end of Snakes and Latters the poem is a releases fundamental philosophical question: “Being a good girl makes no difference/In a game where chaos rules”.
The title poem, Red Tree is placed firmly in the latter part of the book and reflects the overall themes; change versus constancy, yearning. Runaways can be summarized by the first line of each stanza: “Run away with me//We’ll drive down roads//You’ll show me how to skim a stone//We’ll walk through woods//And then we’ll climb through crumbling castles//And at the end of our adventure//In the darkness we’ll drive back//and dream of freedom.” Loose Lips Sink Ships is a veritable delight, “Loose lips sink ships, she says,/but a kiss can save souls.” Home invokes the warmth of the hearth, the presence of ‘you and me’ leaving unspoken the potentially intrusive ‘I’. The collection ends with Make do and Mend in a sense continuing the theme of home and hearth: “So he caught her, coming undone/tried to fix her fraying edges./And she scrubbed his threadbare eyes/wiped the stains away/and made them bright enough/to light their darkest days.”
It was difficult to figure out wheter or not the collection should have ended with Make do and mend or There is something in the trees, a poem of hope and reconciliation. Having chosen to use Red Tree as the title poem it might have been better to both begin with Today, one of her stronger earlier poems, which describes dancing trees and ended with a tree poem.
To a degree, Daniela has been let down by her editor, allowing her to open with a weak poem with an inconsistent rhyming scheme; unfortunately it sets the tone for the book. Some of the first person earlier poems are also problematic, in a sense the writer gets in the way of reader.
Overall, Red Tree is an excellent first collection with some wonderful and engaging poems about change and stability, yearning and contentment.
Red Tree by Daniela Nunnari published by Valley Press: £7.50