Introduction to Window on the Square by Michael Laskey
Window on the Square makes a satisfyingly coherent collection. The poet is dealing with her present life, puzzling at the significance of the ordinary small occurrences that she observes through her window – changing light and weather, glimpses of animals and people. These are necessary poems – she needed to write them – and that’s one reason why they’re worth reading.
They’re well written too, the tone intimate, as if we’re overhearing her thought processes. The language is alert – the bats flying ‘back to their roosts and rest’ for instance, and the fine surprise of her ‘needless vixen’. Yet it always sounds natural, apparently unforced, transparent as the ‘thin sheet of glass’ between her and the Square – which of course takes real skill to achieve.
The Square’s a real place we can picture and inhabit imaginatively, even if we’ve never been there. Thanks to the poet, we know that grass with its crocuses and daffodils; the rosebed; the trees – beech, cherry and hawthorn – and hedges on three sides; New Walk leading off towards a park; and on his plinth, floodlit at night, the statue of the famous, and presumably local, Baptist preacher against whom we measure our lives. Paradoxically it’s because the poems are so grounded, so specific to Leicester, that they travel so well, have such a general appeal and application.
They are attentive, humane poems that invite us in. They allow us to stand beside Alice in the early morning light, preparing ourselves for what’s ahead, ‘taking deep, silent breaths’ like the town itself, reassured by her that ‘alone’ is not synonymous with ‘lonely’.