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  • Natalie Borenstein

Martyn Hesford’s 'Snow Star': Review and Feature

Martyn Hesford’s collection, Snow Star, is strikingly minimalistic, proclaiming the ethereal magic of winter through a strict economy of words. His twelve poems present an intriguing blend of literary styles. The opening stanza – ‘I am walking / in a forest / of snow stars’ – transports the urban nineteenth-century flâneur into the depths of wintry woods, the first-person narration an echo of the mystical solitude evoked by the season. The speaker guides the reader through a host of impressions: the ‘silver sixpence’ moon, a bird’s soul that ‘flutters / into the white’, the ‘Elizabethan kiss / in perfumed / red wax’. Hesford’s poetry luxuriates in the transient images presented by slow meanderings through winter scenes, but the language is not that of the indulgent Romantic Flâneur; instead, the structure is more distinctly reminiscent of the Imagist movement with its swift phrases and crystal images. One glance at William Carlos Williams’ The Red Wheelbarrow or The Winter Trees will illuminate the connection, though what is unusual about Snow Star is the marriage of reductionist language to the discursive sentiment of the Romantic. Hesford’s poetic realm may be stripped to a snowy, skeletal world of short phrases, but it is not without a taste for the bounteous feast of the fantastical. The ‘trees / the criss cross branches / the hovering moon’ are drawn straight from the world of fairy tales; the woodland is of the same ilk as Arthur Rackham’s illustrations. The simplicity calls to mind a childish magic, a fascination with ‘the sparkle / of a moment’ and ‘the glittering’ of a winter day. Hesford’s is a collection for a magpie.

The lines are uncluttered and reflect the purity of a young, carefree mind - the purity of winter. Winter is the time when thoughts are allowed a temporary reversion to the zest and blankness of youth. It is a veil of beauteous, reassuring stagnation preceding Earth’s lively Renaissance in spring when ‘from sleep / this enchantment / breathes / life’. Hesford’s poems hold a mirror to the captivating spectacle of the natural world; winter is the sparkling jewel, the femme fatale ‘mouthing her spell’, the glorious freshness of a snowy landscape and the eerie stillness of a world kept alive on the precipice of death. Winter is a suspended plain between dreams and demise, ‘the animals sleeping / under the ground wrapped away / in crumpled dry leaves’, held in this state by nature's majestic sorcery.

‘Inhale,’ Hesford instructs in his last poem… and so the reader awakes from a sensory reverie, propelled from winter's secrets into the colourful clamour of spring.

Poem 12 from Snow Star

a pressed

white flower.

the crawling

little insect.

the elizabethan kiss

in perfumed

red wax.

your fingers picking.


a needle pricking.

tiny little

blood drops


on the polished wood

like red berries.

your story

once a child here


the little chimes.

the silver echo.

the whispers

of winter’s smoke.


the three




in gold.


the wound




slowly slowly

into the snow.


the mystery

the magic

again and again.

the constant



the little

white flower.

in the forest

the earth is kissed

cracked frozen


from sleep

this enchantment



the earth

is reborn.





the coming






the golden blossoms of the sun


About Martyn Hesford:

Martyn Hesford is a BAFTA-nominated screenplay writer, theatre playwright, and poet. His film screenplays include Fantabulosa! starring Michael Sheen, and Mrs Lowry and Son starring Vanessa Redgrave and Timothy Spall. His theatre plays have been performed at Hampstead Theatre and Trafalgar Studios London.

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