* You are viewing the archive for June, 2010

Frieda Hughes, The Book of Mirrors

To my mind, the most successful poems in The Book of Mirrors were a number of observations of animals towards the end, particularly a group on pheasants. These are on the whole evocative and sharply observed, showing real feeling for the creatures they describe. Another later poem, “February”, expresses the writer’s sense of exhaustion and her yearning for renewal in a way that transcends the merely personal by setting her emotional state in wider contexts of human suffering and seasonal process. There are several dignified and poignant elegies. “Verbal Warning” sends up the absurdity of having so many things that … Continue Reading

Clay by Mandy Coe. Shoestring Press

     Clay is Mandy Coe’s third collection for adults. What I loved most about it was – to borrow a phrase from one of Coe’s own poems – how “sharp with life” it is. One thing this means is putting the body at the centre of her writing, which she does with wonderfully uninhibited gusto:

Light shakes out sheets
in billows, a lover’s breasts and hips,
ripples of flesh on a smacked arse.

Using simple, precisely targeted syntax and diction, Coe flashes vivid images in front of our eyes, crams them into our hands, and makes us see and feel particular things … Continue Reading

Bugs by Anthony Dunn. Carcanet / Oxford Poets

Bugs is Antony Dunn’s third collection and it is a deeply impressive one.

On the purely technical side, Dunn shows a versatile mastery of metre, phrasing and syntactical pacing that barely if ever falters. At a time when the mere ability to hammer out a metrically consistent line and to use rhyme are enough to win praise for technical achievement, the fluency, delicacy and inventive assurance of his versification are a pleasure in themselves. They are matched by his skill in other respects. A number of the poems seem on first reading to be sheer entertainments, made delightful by the elegance … Continue Reading

Colette Bryce, Self-Portrait in the Dark.

I’ve just belatedly caught up with Colette Bryce’s Self-Portrait in the Dark. I found it highly accomplished and enjoyable, full of tart but buoyant humour and engaging in the insights it gave into Bryce’s life and feelings.

Muldoon’s seems very much the dominant influence in tone and style. This appears in Bryce’s way of rhyming and in much of her phrasing, but above all in the way she uses metaphor and simile. Most of the poems that made the strongest impression on me follow Muldoon’s technique of elaborating far-fetched comparisons or conceits. However, Bryce doesn’t have the wild subversiveness of mind … Continue Reading