Today dear readers I am reviewing If the River is Hidden (Published paperback 24th Nov 2022) By Cherry Smyth and Craig Jordan-Baker. A big thank you to the publishers Epoque Press for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated.
If the River is Hidden
If the River is Hidden charts the journey of two writers from the source to the mouth of the Bann, Northern Ireland’s longest river. Through a dialogue of prose and poetry the history, landscape and divisions that have come to define the North are explored and challenged. With backgrounds from each side of the sectarian divide, theirs is a journey of uncovering a sense of place and of searching for meaning; a reshaping of the authors’ own memories, experiences and expectations. For like the river, it is not just what is visible, but what is hidden, that comes to define us.
If the River is Hidden has also been developed as a performance piece with the flautist Eimear McGeown.
About the Authors
Cherry Smyth is an Irish writer, living in London. Her first two poetry collections, When the Lights Go Up, 2001 and One Wanted Thing, 2006 were published by Lagan Press. Her third collection, Test, Orange, 2012, and fourth, Famished, 2019 were published by Pindrop Press. Her debut novel, Hold Still, Holland Park Press, appeared in 2013. Famished tours as a performance in collaboration with vocalist Lauren Kinsella and composer Ed Bennett. Cherry was nominated as a Fellow for the Royal Society of Literature in 2022 and is also a Hawthornden Fellow. She is Associate Professor in Creative & Critical Writing at the University of Greenwich.
Craig Jordan-Baker has published fiction in New Writing, Text, Firefly Magazine, Potluck and the époque press é-zine. His drama has been widely performed in the UK and he has had work commissioned by institutions such as The National Archives, Brighton Museums and the Theatre Royal Brighton. Craig lives in Brighton and is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Brighton. The Nacullians, Craig’s debut novel, was published by époque press in 2020.
If the River is Hidden tells the journey of two writers who follow from the source to the mouth of the Bann, Northern Ireland’s longest river. Their journey is one of pain filled with sweat and blisters but also personal experiences of childhood and loss. They are searching for meaning on their pilgrimage, what is hidden and will help come to define them. They are listening to the Bann, intrigued by what it has to say.
Cherry wants to learn the North again, to walk beside it. There is a part of her that won’t let go, it’s pulling her towards North, her family and a desire to be near her old home again. Cherry suggests to Craig that The Bann should be walked and they should do it together. But Craig has spent the last year in his small flat and wonders why would they follow the river. He looks at a map charting the river and realises that rivers are already stories and wonders what story new or old may be told on their journey. Craig starts to come around to the idea as the river will take him towards Banbridge, a part that is family and he has a strong desire to be near an old home. Craig doesn’t want to stick to them using physical maps, that they should enjoy working out the path and embrace the uncertainty that lies ahead. They are learning where Irish and English meet, discovering more about themselves, meeting new faces and hearing stories of old.
What I enjoyed most about this book was how the story was narrated through the mixture of prose and poetry. The reader discovers the history of the landscape and the divisions that define Northern Ireland.
I give If the River is Hidden By Cherry Smyth and Craig Jordan-Baker a Four out of Five paw rating
The writing is rich and full of memories, folk tales and past lives. It’s absorbing as you soak up the atmosphere, I highly recommend dear reader, this is a book that will help you discover the raw beauty that runs freely throughout Northern Ireland.
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