* You are viewing the archive for July, 2012

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

Christopher James, Farewell to the Earth

I loved the imaginative and technical panache of this collection.

Rooted in humdrum contemporary actualities James’s poems flower into bizarre fantasies of hallucinatory vividness. In an interview after winning the National Poetry Prize the author himself described such poems as “small rebellions against the mundane” and for me it was poems of that kind that supplied the keenest pleasure in the volume. Take “The Windmill Conversion Neighbourhood Watch”. Perhaps there’s already a flicker of imaginative life when you put the lethally flat phrases “windmill conversion” and “neighbourhood watch” together, but the first line of the actual poem blazes with unexpectedness: “We … Continue Reading

The Power of Form: W B Yeats, “On a Political Prisoner”

I’ve just been looking again at Yeats’s “On a Political Prisoner”. What a beautiful and endlessly rereadable poem it is. Like so many older poems, it makes me wish I had enough formal skill myself to use set stanza structures properly.

Dogmatic opponents of traditional forms talk as if they were automatically cold, mechanical and external. Rubbish, as this poem among so many others amply demonstrates. Of course metrical and stanzaic forms can be applied in a cold, mechanical and external way, but then free verse can be limp and vacuous.

Yeats’s own famous statement about his style emphasises the link he … Continue Reading