“Our prehistory now has its poet laureate.”
– Barry Cunliffe, Oxford University
Download readings from the book below, or read an essay about the book.
Passing through more than thirty thousand years of history, the changing spiritual and material lives of the earliest Europeans are vividly imagined through their artwork, burials, architecture, and their interaction with the landscape, the seasons, and one another.
“Our prehistory now has its poet laureate. Tim Miller makes old stones and artefacts sing with new life.” – Barry Cunliffe, Emeritus Professor of European Archaeology, University of Oxford, and author of Britain Begins
“While museum artefacts do feature in poems, this isn’t a collection set behind distancing glass. There are cave paintings – as they’re being painted. Similarly, customs and traditions, gods and goddesses, burial sites and bog bodies aren’t just described and dated; they’re brought back to life on the page…. The poems generally are fuelled by the flames of storytelling, with violent truths set alongside more positive elements of life… Reading these poems isn’t simply an act of second-hand witnessing, it’s an act of experiencing. Yes, this is ‘show not tell’ in action, and also in keeping with contemporary emphasis on experience, given the seeming ephemerality or fast-changing pace of much of modern life (and prehistoric life in a different way)…. Poetic care and crafting is evident in many ways throughout the collection…. Likewise, techniques of various types of line-internal rhyme and alliteration work together to create songlike qualities, a sense of unfolding inevitability and history echoing still now… I could examine and explore each poem in similar almost forensic, archaeological tagging detail and still return to find new aspects to awe me. Reading from poem to poem, page by page, through the whole collection in order also brings added links and threads between poems and re-appearances that create extra connections. There’s lots to admire exploring the collection in this way, but it’s also a pleasure to dip into Bone Antler Stone and read more randomly, feeling the lines and enjoying the images and emotions evoked…. For me, Bone Antler Stone isn’t just a beautifully crafted, fascinating and addictive collection, it’s also a timely reminder that past history is never just the past’s.” – S.A. Leavesley, Riggwelter (Read the entire review here)
“… [Bone Antler Stone] is an act of powerful sympathetic imagination that forges a connection between lost cultures and our own and that reminds us of our commonality as a species…. The poems themselves are mostly short, unrhymed, and as sturdily built as their subject matter. The tone is reverent and full of awe for the people, their artifacts, and the landscape itself…. throughout the book, there is a marked awareness of art’s magic, strangeness, and immortality. Many of the people in the poems live (and die) as outsider artists within their cultures: the “hobble-headed,” lame-footed smith in “Song to the Smith”; “The Seeress of Vix,” with her “crooked look” and “knobbled walk”; and, among the “Bog Bodies,” the Haraldskaer Woman (“They didn’t dare to cut my hair / and I was thrown in alive under their envy”), the Kayhausen Boy (“But my bog dreams amid all that dead matter / were to me a song I will never leave”), and the Grauballe Man (“perhaps special, perhaps a source of shame / perhaps feared and gifted in my defect”), to name a few. Fittingly, in the book’s final poem, “The Wanderer II (Flight from Orkney),” the poet, using Pytheas as his mouthpiece, envisions his own work as a continuation of art’s regenerative power.” – Tom Zimmerman, The Big Windows Review (Read the full review here)
“Tim Miller’s poetry captures not just meaningful responses to encounters with the rich archaeological record of prehistoric Europe but also a deep understanding of the complex character of each find. His poetic insight brings each site to life and illuminates the dark and misty past in a way that archaeological reports cannot do on their own. From Stone Age landscapes and burials to Iron Age bog bodies, Bone Antler Stone evokes not only the mystery but also the humanity of the ancient world.” – Peter Bogucki, Princeton University, and editor of Ancient Europe, 8000 BC – AD 1000: Encyclopedia of the Barbarian World
“The scope of this collection is extraordinary, and the depth of research admirable. But Tim Miller’s poetry wears its learning well enough to draw in a non specialist reader. Prehistory is a gift to the poet in that it can offer the mysterious, poignant detail as well as an intriguing archeological backdrop; it can present us with belief systems and artistic perspectives that are profoundly other to those recognised by contemporary culture. But in skillfully wrought poetry such prehistoric elements can still offer points of connection and food for thought…. There are vivid sensory details throughout, and often the poems themselves take on an element of liturgy… Vivid, evocative poetry engaging with ancient concepts of the sacred, and a rich prehistorical resource in its own right… The most moving section is arguably the subsequent ‘Burials’. With life brief and uncertain, burial rites and afterlife mythology become so much more significant…. This especially is strong poetry, offering startling insight borne of careful observation.” – Sarah Law, Amethyst Review (Read the full review here)
“Tim Miller’s collection kindles a fire that we have forgotten; a fire that flickers on cave walls and builds a bridge between humankind and the pulse of the wild world beating beneath it. The poems are full to the brim with life, reimagining and rebirthing the lost years our own prehistory, dug from the earth like lost truths. An endlessly fascinating and beautifully written collection.” – Wendy Pratt, author of Gifts the Mole Gave Me