‘Brought to Mind’ is a moving poem among many about remembering which seems to me to be summed up in the last line of ‘The Exchange by the Stile’: ‘We live in so much more than just the present.’ Paintings, especially those that show people or events, catch and pin down specific moments just as memory does. I love ‘Interior with Red Linoleum’ where the poet’s mother, ‘bending intently over the step’, resembles a figure in a Dutch interior although the flooring is lino and is ‘a pinkish red flecked with white/I’ve seen nowhere else’. ‘Peasant Girl Hanging Clothes to Dry’ has this same quality of focused intensity, a shared epiphany, where ‘the sharp air and sunlight outside’ give the girl a feeling ‘of being twice as alive as normal’ and of becoming ‘complete’.
What Possessed Me is a visionary collection. There are shadows as well as light but there is an overwhelming sense of transformation and the connection of things in the ‘undeniable/
fellowship, whatever it means, of being.’ (‘Morning in the Parc Lefèvre’).
“Exurbia is full of nature, description and music, which the narrators of Brown’s poems face head on, embracing complexity, poetic and natural forms, and beauty. Brown’s vocabulary is diverse and intriguing, wide-ranging and often unexpected – without being the slightest bit awkward or affected. Interestingly the ‘I’ in these poems is often absent altogether, or for the majority of the poem; the focus is on what is seen, not who is describing or engaging with the subject of the poem. This is refreshing in lyric poetry, and gets one away from the idea that the poet or the narrator knows more than we the readers do and will share his epiphany and knowledge with us; here, the narrator is sidelined and the subject foregrounded.
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“This is Sally Flint’s first collection. Her poems are concise and carefully structured. Like many poets her work is autobiographical, her book includes poems about childhood, her family, neighbours and relationships. She writes vividly about the challenges of life in the A&E Department of a hospital and about significant life experiences. These events include a stabbing on a suburban street:
…A gang // pressed around him at the bus
stop; / slipped a blade between his bones /
subtle as a tourist. (Amnesty)
“This collection’s great strength lies in the poet’s use of physical detail in crafting his effects. There is no space here to give a full account, but I hope I have given some idea below of the poet at work. Stephen Boyce starts strongly with ‘Threasds’, a modern sonnet, in which his sewing mother encloses her husband, on his dangerous journey, with her love. The act of sewing itself, although “cheerless”, helps to “straighten” his weaving path, “drawing him safely home” with the power of her stitching.
His father, indeed, is shown in a variety of ways. The sahib is seen through “Orange Pekoe …Assam, Darjeeling” teas, which evoke “visions” and “longing” yet regret and guilt as he remembers remembers the tea pickers “keening” and “the scars on their fingers”. The frail older man is unsparingly yet sympathetically described: his chest is “a bag of bones” yet “his chin trembles”.
“The various strands are braided together with careful, beautiful subtlety. Now we are reading a poem to Shakespeare, Sir Philip Sidney, George Gascoigne or one of their contemporaries, like M.W., F.G. or C.M., whose identities we are encouraged to work out from the initials and internal evidence (here, Mary Wroth, Fulke Grenville and Christopher Marlowe). Now we are following Ben Jonson on his famous 1618 walk to visit Drummond of Hawthornden. Now we are reading snippets from Greening’s daily Hawthornden journal. The effect is at times rather like flipping between the lively chat of Auden’s ‘Letter to Lord Byron’ and the chiselled shards of Hill’s Mercian Hymns.
“Another speaker-as-weather-station is to be found in Michael McKimm’s Fossil Sunshine, but here the ‘weather’ is Earth itself. That is not to say, however, that the human element is missing. It could hardly be so, suggests McKimm, since humans have played such a significant role in the ever-sharpening knife-edge that is the world’s ecological condition. McKimm works in the Library of the Geological Society of London and Fossil Sunshine is the result of a year-long collaboration with earth scientists, including fieldwork. The collection looks back in order to look forward, examining geological history to evaluate the characteristics of our current global warming: “the poems are neither didactic nor doom-laden,” says the note on the back cover, and this is certainly true.
“The movement of John Freeman’s poems is always easy to follow. The ease and the warmth make for an attractiveness that is central to the poems. And because they never lapse into the merely anecdotal they retain their quality and stand repeated reading. There is a consistency in the writing that is impressive. The voice in the poems is constant and true.”
“The gorgeous sounds [in the title poem] undercut an elemental and latent energy within a movement that is continual and deepening…It is a poem as a blessing or prayer that is intended to be spoken aloud….[These poems] delineate a powerful sacramental vision of the world and humanity…The final poem..”Water’ takes us to the heart of the sacrament…It is an appropriate ending to a powerfully sustained collection.”
David Caddy, Tears in the Fence Read more »
“Riddance is a remarkable collection, moving, but also funny and admirable, rueful and hopeful. A few of the poems are especially breathtaking; ‘Visitation’ in particular. But I think it’s the accretion of matter that’s most extraordinary, the way the collection grows and occasionally twists back on itself, the way ideas pop up in different contexts so that the difficulty of the subject is gradually mediated by the honesty and insistence of the voice. Finally I loved its mundanity: if cancer is anything it is common, while poetry often aspires to the universal. Anthony Wilson understands that commonness and universality are close cousins, but not quite the same thing, and that sensitivity shines throughout the collection.”
Peter Scott, co-editor of The Junket Read more »
“In his engaging introduction to this anthology mainly by young writers in their twenties with whom he and fellow tutors have worked together on the Practice of Poetry course at Warwick University, David Morley begins with a quotation from Kenneth Koch’s poems addressed “To My Twenties”. This was a time between the twenties and thirties, Koch writes, when “you were midmost / Most lustrous apparently strongest” and there is plenty of light and strength apparent in Dove Release. Plenty of variety, too, both in the poems themselves and the encounters which have inspired them. Read more »
“Wilmer’s ambitious versions achieve an abrupt starkness, signalling Pilinszky’s naked vulnerability, the existentialist horror of livIng through war. Formally there is an immediacy, a daring bleakness…Wilmer and Gomori have conveyed Pilinszky as a poet who inhabits suffering deftly, a suffering that cannot be contained even within formal and highly wrought structures but it is accentuated by them.”
Saradha Soobrayen, Modern Poetry in Translation 2012
“Clive Wilmer and George Gömöri’s translations of János Pilinszky’s Passio: Fourteen Poems, is another collection that is heavily influenced by the European war experience. János Pilinszky (1921-1981) is part of that generation of Paul Celan, Zbigniew Herbert, and Yves Bonnefoy who experienced both The Second World War and The Holocaust. He is a Hungarian poet and translator who was conscripted into the Hungarian army and spent the last part of the war in Southern Germany. Most of these poems are from his second book Harmadnapon (On theThird Day) (1959) which contains his war poetry, the poems for which he is most renowned. Clive Wilmer’s introductory comments on Pilinszky are insightful:
“The seventy-eight-year-old American poet Peler Kane Dufault is not well known on either side of the Atlantic, but he deserves to be. An earlier Selected Poems impressed by its syntaetical fluidity, the poet’s sense of “prosody in the bedrock and roll of the world”, his ability to (as Ted Hughes puts it on the cover) snatch “those uncatchable moments – like snatching a “butterfly out of the air’. The poems are engrossing; representative of the best of the American ‘Wilderness School’, with nothing of the Ouija board about them, but a real spiritual hunger. Read more »
“The opening poem of Joseph Woods’s Bearings suggests the heartland of his new book will be ‘the middle country [ … ] alternative routes -/ Athy, Stradbally and Abbeyleix … ‘ (‘Surveying the Midlands’). But this is a poetry of transition rather than place: of ‘ignition and the shudder bond’ (‘Bearings’) as an engine springs into life once more – rather than the dreamed-up authenticity of pastoral. Whether it’s the engine of thought or a car taking ‘this trajectory trawl across the country’ is almost beside the poet’s point. Bearings are provisional markers to steer by, measures which change as we move; and several of the poems in this collection chart a heart adrift ‘in a room near the harbour/ longing for you over eight time-zones’ (‘Plastic Butter-flies’). Read more »
“Clive Wilmer’s first book since his Selected Poems of 1995 is as seamlessly constructed as the poems themselves. It includes the sonnet ‘A Baroque Concerto’: which could be a subtitle for the entire collection: DOl only is Wilmer’s style: cool, formal, crisp and energetic, but he divides the volume into three eon lasting ‘movements’.
The first (chiefly erotic in its themes) opens with a clear call to the Muse: ‘Who are you that have stepped into the light I so need, I that goddess seems the word’. There follow several love poems, some lithe voyeuristic pieces and a couple of Browningesque blank verse monologues. The middle – long, slow, elegiac – movement is ‘In Memory of Graham Davies, Psychotherapist’ and very much the heart of the book, as revealing of the poet as of its subject. It is beautifully placed, picking up on the earlier mood. Read more »
“One of the obvious pleasures of reading translations is the discovery of unfamiliar poets. Another is an encounter with modes and manners of poetry dfferent from your own and most of your contemporaries. For example, many of the poets in Peter Robinson’s The Great Friend are simply quieter and more inclined to the contemplative moment than contemporary British and Irish writers tend to be, although there are exceptions. So much poetry these days seems calculated to be understood on a single hearing when performed at a poetry reading. Accessibility can have its benefits, of course, but its cult of performance often tends to neglect more marginal states of mind, those whispered Subjects drawn from states of semi-consciousness. Read more »