* You are viewing the archive for January, 2011

Background Music by Cynthia Fuller, Flambard Press, £7.00; 64 pages

Cynthia Fuller’s writing is artistically polished but linguistically low-key, using simple syntax and vocabulary in a precise and evocative way. In the best poems the restraint of her style is a considerable strength. One such piece is “Encounter with Angels”, recounting a visit to Coventry Cathedral. It is composed in couplets formed not by rhyme but by being laid out in two-line stanzas. Here one sees very clearly how carefully achieved the restraint of Fuller’s writing is. It appears in the syntax, avoiding the drama of enjambement almost entirely, and using the coincidence of period with line or stanza to … Continue Reading

A Short History of Mornings by John Levett, Shoestring Press

John Levett’s poems present themselves in armatures of assertive rhyme and metre. To my taste, this can become oppressive, but Levett rhymes with great skill and verbal resource, and often to powerful effect. For example, in “Tourniquets”, commended in the 2005 National Poetry Competition, the way he weaves long, complex sentences through a demanding rhyme pattern powerfully builds and controls the imaginative pressure. Still more impressive in this way was “Five Barred Gate”, with its virtuoso handling of a complex metrical and stanzaic form. In “Salix Contorta” what the poet calls his “trellised song” is paralleled to the willow’s twisting … 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