* You are viewing the archive for December, 2013

Beverley Bie Brahic, White Sheets, 76 pp, £7.99, CB Editions

The supple, intelligent, sophisticated but grounded poems of White Sheets also gave me a good deal of pleasure to read. They cover wide areas of space and time (Brahic grew up in Canada and lives in Paris and California; she weaves webs of cross-connection between such things as her father’s experiences in the Second World War, contemporary fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq and the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta). They sensitively explore the difficulties of physical and emotional distance from parents and the sadness of parents’ decline. Moving easily between personal experience and the imagined experience of others, they … Continue Reading

John Hartley Williams, Assault on the Clouds, 64pp, £9.00, Shoestring Press

John Hartley Williams has been described as a “lord of misrule” and appropriately his book is much concerned with the abuse of power as well as being marked throughout by a spirit of comic irreverence and surrealist absurdity. Its world is Arboa, a fantasy island of inaccessible peaks, bottomless ravines and endless rain, ruled by a psychotic Emperor with fat arms whose picture adorns packets of Wheat Hallucination Flakes, every one of which contains little plastic effigies of him and his family. His General takes a blowtorch to the face of a too-truthful Painter, and leads the army on manoeuvres … Continue Reading

Dennis O’Driscoll, Dear Life, 112 pp, £9.95, Anvil Press

Dennis O’Driscoll’s death casts a shadow over this book and often seems to be anticipated within it. It’s striking and admirable then that so many poems crackle with a wit that is mordant but full of life.

Full of life partly because his language is so vigorously contemporary. This allows him to speak directly to the reader, including, I would imagine, the reader who rarely looks at a poem. It gives everything he writes what Thom Gunn called “the sniff of the real”. But full of life also because O’ Driscoll is steeped in learning, however lightly he wears it. Shining … Continue Reading