What Possessed Me by John Freeman


‘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’).

One passage that illustrates this quality is from the last section, ‘Attic Interlude’. They are the concluding lines of the collection and need to be quoted in full:

We came out at last from Terminal 5
at six in the evening BST, to face
a fierce cold easterly and a blinding glare
from the westering sun. When we’d found the car,
and you were sitting inside already,
I called you out to see, close by, a skylark
dipping and rising, singing his skylark song
against a daylight moon more than half full,
and as we gazed and listened the bird rose,
still singing, and became a dot and then,
though we were watching very carefully,
suddenly was nowhere to be seen, though still
the clear, enchanting music fell on us.

Mandy Pannett, Sentinel Literary Quarterly. Read the full review online

“Full of precise and telling detail and powerful and memorable imagery.”

Jonathan Edwards

“The clarity of perception that we have come to expect and treasure…”

John Lavin

“What matters to Freeman… is perception itself and the possibility of founding meaning about the world in that perception. But there is also a great sense of fun in the poems. He is good and stimulating company, and more readers should get to know him.”

David Clarke, A Thing for Poetry. Read a fuller review here.

“The thing that immediately strikes me about John Freeman’s poems is their consistency – of tone, of rhythm, of clarity. There is a sure voice in evidence at all times. What is particularly affecting is the way in which a poem, and I’m conscious of this whole book being, in a sense, really one poem, can be triggered by a small incident or observation. What I find attractive in the writing is the relaxed and friendly way in which the reader is invited into the poet’s world.”

Charles Ashleigh, Penniless Press. Read the full review here.

“What impresses in this collection is Freeman’s constant desire to share his eagerness for life, other writers and the delights of places – all the things that ‘possess’ him – with readers. This is not abstruse or cryptically coded poetry but a collection lit with humour and openness.”

D.A. Prince, London Grip. Read the full review here.

“a remarkable volume of honest and engaging writing […] It is no mere chance that this book by John Freeman was awarded the Roland Matthias Poetry Award at the recent Wales Book of the Year Awards. I urge readers to contact Worple Press and get a copy NOW.”

Ian Brinton, Tears in the Fence. Read the full review here.

“Freeman’s style is deceptively relaxed, even casual, sometimes close to a diary entry or a conversation. Memories of experiences, both distant and recent are captured with great charm, poignancy and sharpness, to illustrate the fact that ‘we live in so much more than just the present’ […] In ‘Casting the Poem’ he compares making a poem to casting a horoscope: ‘A reflection of the universe at that / precise moment in relation to you’. I have rarely seen a better description of the experience, and that is what John Freeman achieves in this collection.”

Caroline Clark, www.gwales.com for the Welsh Book Council. Read the full review here.