Jane Tims: Niche. KDP.
Niche, the fourth poetry book published by Jane Tims, is a neat configuration of six segments that elaborate and illustrate the poet’s original definition of the multiple meanings of her title word niche. It is very difficult to separate the author from the act of narration as her keenly observed and skillfully executed drawings, together with their verbal representation on the page, are so autobiographical and so much an extension of her artistic and professional abilities that the objective separation of writer and text is scarcely possible. It is hard to forget that Jane Tims was, and to a great extent, still is, a highly competent professional botanist. The harnessing of the professional botanist, with her unique drawing skills and scientific knowledge, to the poet and auto-biographer is a key factor in the reading and interpretation of this text in which acute observation blends with an intimate knowledge of the observed botanical world, both flora and fauna, and this allows the poet, in her role of poetic narrator and lyrical voice, to weave a network of poems that are, at one and the same time, objective and intensely subjective.
The author emphasizes this when she writes in the Preface that “In biological terms, the niche is the quality of a space occupied by a living thing, the sum total of physical, nutritional, biological, psychological and emotional needs gathered together in one place.” She also reminds us that in human terms “niche can be a metaphor for home, community or personal space” and it is within these metaphoric spaces that the poetry text is elaborated. The text becomes a linked mixture of visual drawings, iterative thematic imagery and associative fields, all centred on the multiple meanings of niche. These terms are both biological and human in nature and the poet’s named world meets at this juncture between the human and the natural.
The section occupying space (1-19) bears the subtitle satisfying need and begins with a setting out of what this means in the following 12 poems and 4 accompanying drawings. The poem ‘apples in the snow’ with its companion drawing stands out for me. The section strategy, subtitled solidifying position (21-43) outlines in poetic terms, how plants, animals, and humans ensure their own survival. The section praying for rain, subtitled, avoiding danger and discomfort (45-68), offers views on discomforts and dangers. It also opens the discussion—relocate or stay where we are? The section mapping the labyrinth or places I have occupied (69-83), which contains the wonderful sentence “When I get lost on the road ahead, I look to the road behind me,” throws open the multiple meanings of home. The section new ways for water, subtitled coping with change (85-98), offers a double landscape, first, external, the things seen, touched, examined, remembered and described, and then the internal landscape that reflects upon them and is reflected in them. Finally, forgetting to move, with its subtitle getting comfortable (99-111), presents an autobiography that links observer (the twin personage of author and narrator) to observed (nature, both flora and fauna, and the added element of autobiography and self) via the symbiotic relationship of botanist to botany.
Two moments stand out for me. (1) Sadness is in seeking the space that is never found. (2) Loneliness is in trying to return to a space once occupied but no longer available. The whole concept of the Welsh word hiraeth is summed up in these two lines. Carpe diem, Jane Tims’ poetry indeed seizes the day and, with its minute, intense observation, it preserves so many precious moments. It also pays attention to that which has been lost, those moments that are irretrievable. They will vary for each reader, but hopefully, like me, you will take great pleasure in discovering them for yourself.
Comment: Brian Henry of Quick Brown Fox picked up this review and published it on QBF. Thank you, Brian and thank you Jane, you both do me great honor. Here’s the link: Niche on QBF 14 March 2021