Shieling by Lawrence Cottrell


“Half wail, half exultation,” is how an Apache death song has been described. In a sense, all poetry is a kind of ritual death song—celebrating life, grieving its loss, and conjuring the courage to leave it. Cottrell’s Shieling collection does all of this and more in language that is compelling in its musicality—more so than any I’ve read in a long time—and highly original and apt in its metaphor. Every poem offers a surprise. Cottrell’s perspective is informed by such far-flung knowledge and such deep appreciation for the joys life has brought him in childhood, love, and marriage that his comparisons challenge the reader to keep up. One of the most unique features of this work is the poet’s use of “obsolete” words, often of Scottish origin, suggesting the community we share with the long ago and far away. These old words offer a kind of consolation in their homeliness born out of a time when people lived closer to the natural world, less insulated from its cold and heat, seeing its ugliness and beauty up close and every day. He manages this comforting romance of words with an ironic take on objects of cliché that chides sentimentalism—sometimes with comedy, often with profundity. Whatever the key of his music in individual poems, the collection refuses easy avenues of escape from facing death, as those avenues risk fully experiencing life. —Edwina Pendarvis


  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 80
  • Language: English
  • Date Published: June, 2023
  • ISBN 978-1-953252-80-7


In an age of distraction, the poems collected in Shieling require us to stop, to ponder the loveliness in the worn, the second-hand, and the world-weary. They nod to the passing of time and our temporality, rewarding us with a beauty found in unexpected places and within the vestiges of nature, where the daisies just might tell you secrets. —Renée K. Nicholson

Anyone who glimpses into the shape-shifting, wispy world of Lawrence Cottrell’s Shieling, spins through mankind’s pasts and futures, following in the wake of the poet’s word-flourishes on triumphant tiptoes. In these deepened drifts one can easily forget the prosaic and pedestrian present and nestle with glee behind a lover’s  eyes or the memory of a kiss. Cottrell pens his original and oracular verse like no other. His numinous music portages transfixed, contemporary readers across a forbidden and forested and phantom land to a river of rushing consonants and delightful vowels. Cottrell’s Shieling reverberates outward. A book beyond enchanting. —Dennis Daly



the ashes of [our] fathers, and the temples of [our] gods
go unhonored…

dowdy hymns for wit’s cathedral.

Meliorists pant at altars of perfection, despise fractious
Would sire anew a Vendémaire, selves reenter Eden, sin
Soughed as might black racer molt in autumn, syllogisms

lords bestrid the ticks of clocks…

Who fling into the universe what fools are told by sibyls,
vague prescience’ of deliverance,
That cannot bear fissured chalice’ for the wine, confess
that waves all rift ’to seas,

each play’s seven acts in fortune’s company…

Promised lands like fireflies winking, wraiths in jars that
dim away…

like notes of swifts that pass away —


Lawrence CottrellDoubtless my biography appeared (to me) as a tale in progress, like some right whale breaching a sea, neither of which was there a moment earlier. I guess there was a world antedating my keeping of pieces of it. The extant photographs of neonate and toddler me seem to confirm that theory, so there are a few earliest years of my life about which I know nothing. And, truthfully, this mind’s like a net made to catch cetaceans only, entire schools of, say, krill would have left scant impression. So, here’s to that first recollection, some jot of time which didn’t get away wholly. I’m the sum of it and others, save for the singular way I beat along the wind. Like canvas to a blow, one pouts uniquely, like his fellows but not quite so,  things known and felt according to the topographical camberings and concavities of “I.” Of this irreducible arrangement of neurons what’s to be said, save that a kind of flesh thinks and imagines, has, oddly enough, an incipient emotive perspective, into which experience must or ought fit. One is godlet and helot, sings of paradises lost off-key.

But I ramble. All you need to know of me is that I make poems nowadays. Recollect that if you please, since in an hour or an age I shan’t.

Lawrence Cottrell

Additional information

Weight 5.6 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .25 in