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The Havocs by Jacob Polley. Picador Poetry, 64 pp., £9.99

In metre, language, subject matter and genre, the poems of The Havocs are deeply and consciously rooted in many centuries of tradition. One of the finest is a translation / adaptation of “The Ruin” from the Old English Exeter Manuscript. Strikingly successful poems use the techniques of the Old English riddle, while others, such as “Langley Lane” and “The Bridge”, evoke the spirit and style of the Border ballads, or, like “Following the River”, of the dream vision poems so popular in the middle ages. Throughout the book, I found myself enjoying the shapeliness of Polley’s constructions, the virtuosity with … Continue Reading

Jacob Polley’s “Potsherds”

Polley’s “Potsherds” seems to me to echo the cadences of some of Mahon’s earlier poems like “An Image from Beckett” and “Lives” (both also written in triplets) and “The Apotheosis of Tins”. I think it’s interesting and suggestive to hold these poems together in the mind and let them play against each other, but of course “Potsherds” has preoccupations and a voice all its own, and it’s these that I want to look at.[1]

The opening lines are brilliantly paced to combine quietly understated language with imaginative sweep, especially in the dramatic expansion of perspective brought by line three:… Continue Reading

Jacob Polley – “Doll’s House”

You can link to the poem by clicking here.

“Doll’s House” deliberately unsettles the reader by suddenly lurching off and becoming a different kind of poem to the one it seems to be at the outset. As a poem about a doll’s house might be expected to, it starts out seeming very formal and contained, with its clear stanza shapes, strong rhymes and a close fit between metre and syntactical cadence that gives the beginning an almost jogtrot rhythm. Admittedly even within the first stanza there are signs that more is stirring in the depths of the poem than … Continue Reading

Jacob Polley, “A Jar of Honey” – image and syntax

I was introduced to Jacob Polley’s “A Jar of Honey” at a Poetry School workshop run by Helen Ivory a couple of days ago. Here’s a link to the poem:


My first feeling was of sheer delight in the image in the first two lines. I had a slightly mixed reaction to line three – I was torn between thinking what a brilliant phrase and idea “stunned glow” was and feeling that there was something just slightly heavy-handed and insistent about it. I liked “the sun all flesh and no bones”. All kinds of associations combine to make the phrase … Continue Reading