* You are viewing the archive for October, 2009

Sarah Arvio, Sono with Visits from the Seventh, Bloodaxe Books, £9.95 including free audio CD.

For all Sarah Arvio’s obvious intelligence, culture, technical adroitness and articulacy, I struggled with this book. In the end I didn’t feel the struggle brought anything like enough reward.

My feeling of a fundamental aridity was at its most acute in Sono. The poem – a sequence of forty-two “cantos” arranged in generally blank verse triplets – seems to have an underlying story of a love affair gone wrong, and on this basis the poet reflects ramblingly on lost love, sex and life in a Roman setting. The writing can flash briefly into imagistic vividness or pathos, and it may be … Continue Reading

Maurice Carême, “Défier le destin – Defying Fate”, trans. Christopher Pilling; Arc Publications

The Belgian author Maurice Carême (1899 – 1978) is apparently much loved and seen as a major figure in his homeland. I read this volume with growing respect and a growing sense that for all their absence of obvious difficulty these were poems that would reward extensive rereading. Carême’s predilection for short (sometimes very short) lines, the brevity and tight focus of the poems and their generally simple syntax and vocabulary give them a modest air, but they are the fruits of much meditation, accumulated wisdom and technical skill, and they cover a wide range of feelings and attitudes. There … Continue Reading

Liz Almond, Yelp and Brian Johnstone, The Book of Belongings

Liz Almond’s new collection introduces us to a wide world, full of sensual pleasures but also of cruelties, pains and dangers, which she suggests we must actively face and face down if we are to live life to the full.

“Rosita Rules the Roost” illustrates some of the strengths of her writing: a powerful, instantly gripping opening, visual clarity and force, the rhythms of emphatic speech:

She howls her way up the cobbles,
demented, bereaved, demented
leans on her whittled stick –

A list of its opening lines would give an immediate impression of the sheer vitality of this work, and of how … Continue Reading