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David Constantine, Belongings – review

If Glenday’s Selected Poems persistently look inwards, those of David Constantine’s Belongings are focused outwards, on the world around the poet. A short review can’t do justice to their range, seriousness, individuality or challenge. They pay extremely close attention to what in ‘Maps’ Constantine calls ‘the holy particulars’: individual people, animals, trees and events at specific times and in specific places. This is where he finds the solidity and significance he describes as ‘presence’. Sometimes they involve large, easily recognizable social issues, but the focus is always on the concrete and particular, not the abstract and general. Wider connections … Continue Reading

Elder by David Constantine, Bloodaxe Books, £9.95 paperback

This is a moving and deeply humane book. Different qualities combine to make it a must-have for anyone whose poetic tastes are at all like mine.

For one thing, there’s Constantine’s mastery of the singing line. In many of these poems, the rhythms, the play of sound and the controlled fluidity of the syntax are intense pleasures in themselves. However, Constantine knows to use such qualities sparingly, keeping us on our toes by disrupting smooth rhythms and syntax with angularity and roughness, throwing grit and dissonance into the music, emphasising the expressiveness of sound rather than its harmony. In short, his … Continue Reading

David Constantine, Nine Fathom Deep

Steeped in learning, sophisticated in vocabulary, syntax and metre, highly wrought and sculpted to last, the poems in David Constantine’s latest volume offer the reader huge rewards.

Not the least of these is the pleasure of seeing familiar writers and artists through the eyes of someone who reacts to them with such direct and passionate engagement. For example, “26 Piazza di Spagna” gives devastating focus to the pain of Keats’ death. In itself, it is one of the most poignant poems inspired by the life of a writer that I’ve read. In context, it is one of a densely interconnected cluster … Continue Reading