* You are viewing the archive for May, 2015

Robin Robertson, Sailing the Forest – review

Sailing the Forest: Selected Poems by Robin Robertson, Picador, £20 (hardback), £14.99 (paperback).

Sailing the Forest brings together poems from five separate collections. It’s a body of work that’s been both highly varied and remarkably coherent from the beginning. Robertson has always been exceptionally good at and interested in evoking place and the atmosphere of places. He’s always been intensely interested in myth and folklore, and he’s always been haunted by the cruelty of men and nature, by loneliness, pain and loss, and by the idea of something missing or broken in the self. The depth of these preoccupations gives the … Continue Reading

David Harsent, Fire Songs – review

Fire Songs by David Harsent, Faber and Faber, 80 pp., £12.99 (hardback), £9.99 (ebook).

For all its darkness, Fire Songs is a fluent, stylish, brilliantly exhilarating read. Line by line, stanza by stanza, section by section, the evocativeness of the writing and the beauty of its sounds and cadences are simply astonishing, whether for the sharpness and surprise of its visual impact, the abruptness with which it plunges us into crowded, sensuously alive, rapidly developing scenarios, or the rapid flickers and huge elusive shadows of suggestion that the images and the movement of the lines seem to cast. Harsent can seem … Continue Reading

Rhythm and syntax: my problem with “The Beautiful Librarians”

You can read both Sean O’Brien’s “The Beautiful Librarians” and Carol Rumens’ enthusiastic commentary in The Guardian by clicking here.

It’s a poem that falls curiously dead for me. It’s not that it lacks beauty and vigour of phrasing, that I don’t see the subtleties of thought and implication that Rumens describes, or that I’m out of sympathy with its attitudes and feelings. If I let my eyes drift over it, letting odd phrases come into focus in a fragmentary way, I feel a kind of prickling of incipient pleasure and excitement. As soon as I actually read it, … Continue Reading