I have known Samuel Tongue over part of the period that he has been putting this collection of poetry together. I have known him as thoughtful and intelligent.and more than capable of using language to express his ideas clearly and succinctly. That is just in conversation. It is not until now that I have read one of his poetry collections. This is because “Hauling-Out” is his first. It is extraordinary, truly a joy to read.
Whales play a significant part in this collection, especially the Leviathan that God reveals to Job. One poem, The International Whaling Commission Answers Back, begins with “Canst thou draw out Leviathan with an hook? Or let his tongue with a cord, which thou lettest down?” And there are other references, to a painting of the whale that was beached at Scheveningen in The Netherlands, or about why the whale was hunted. The one whale that hangs over this collection, but which is not mentioned, is the white whale, Moby Dick.
My favourite poem though is Capel-y-Ffin. Samuel Tongue translates the Welsh name as Chapel at the end, but it could equally be Chapel at the edge or Chapel on the boundary. Capel-y-Ffin is in the Honddu valley. The next valley, going east, is the Dore Valley or Golden Valley, which is in England. [Dwr pronounced Dore is the Welsh word for water]. Capel-y-Ffin is at the end, the edge, the boundary of Wales. And Samuel tongue describes it accurately. There is a window inscribed with the opening lines of Psalm 121: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills” and when you do, the mountains around the chapel are frequently black with rain. You see mountainous clouds “from whence cometh the black rain”. You see the sheep “rotting in their fleeces”. The hills truly do keep us together giving us something to believe in, and the buzzard does mew in flight. Samuel Tongue captures the essence of the place, and that is truly remarkable.
One complaint: I do not wish to wait another ten years before I read Samuel Tongue’s next collection of poetry. So, Sam, can you please get on with it?