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Review – Jamie McKendrick, Selected Poems

Jamie McKendrick, Selected Poems, 160pp, £ 12.99, Faber and Faber.

In some ways I wished these poems could have been given in reverse chronological order. Starting with “Out There”, “The Carved Buddha”, “The Meeting House” or “The Literalist”, a new reader would have begun with a poet at the height of his powers. These are four poems you can reread endlessly for the beauty of their writing and the constantly changing shimmer of suggestion within and between them. Their relaxed style draws its strength from finely honed prosodic skill. Each has an imaginative spaciousness that belies its brevity, moving effortlessly between … Continue Reading

Jane Draycott’s “Lent” – a reading


The bailiff winds are at the door.
Alcohol and cigarettes must go. Abstain,
repent. No meat, no chocolate, no more
obsessive checking of your phone
like the pulse of a dying friend. Refrain.
No more taking photographs of pictures.
Let the world go like Michelangelo’s sculpture
made of snow that no one framed.

The house lies purged and empty. Still the winds blow.
Now give up the wilderness, the wandering.
Retreat instead to that windless winter morning
when a young man stood in the gardens of the palazzo,
lips glistening, hair shining at the nape,
before the bomb-blast of sun, not anyone’s to keep.


This poem finely illustrates … Continue Reading

Forbidden words – “vermilion” in Hopkins’ “The Windhover”

I’ve just been introduced to a list of “forbidden words” in poetry. “Vermilion” is one of them. But look at Hopkins’ “The Windhover” – how he makes “vermilion” burst off the tongue with a sense of sudden release and then settle into quietness. There are bigger miracles in the poem, of course, but I want to talk about this one in the context of the idea that some words are too clichéd for us to use in our poems.


The Windhover

To Christ Our Lord

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
…..dom of daylight’s dauphin, … Continue Reading