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John Heath-Stubbs, Selected Poems – review

John Heath-Stubbs, Selected Poems ed. John Clegg, 128 pp, £9.99, Carcanet Press

John Heath-Stubbs was a prolific poet whose career can be seen as developing in two parts. In his own introduction to his Collected Poems, he ‘half-repudiated’, as John Clegg puts it, the poetry before 1965. Clegg thinks he was wrong. I think he was essentially right and that by giving over half this selection to the earlier poetry Clegg diminishes his achievement.

Admittedly the early poems show remarkable gifts. Many are not easily forgotten once read. This is already true of Clegg’s first, ‘Leporello’, published when Heath-Stubbs was twenty-three. However, … Continue Reading

Tishani Doshi, Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods – review

Tishani Doshi can be uneven but she’s a highly talented, accomplished author who writes memorably in both passionately engaged and humorously detached modes.

Various poems respond to misogyny and the horror of sexual violence. One such, ‘Everyone Loves a Dead Girl’, shows how strength and weakness can be intertwined in her work. The title ripples with multiple suggestions, some sad, some bitingly ironic. The first two lines combine narrative drive with lingering reflectiveness:

They arrive at parties alone because they are dead
now and there is nothing to fear except the sun.

The delicate placing of ‘now’ after the line-end pause puts … Continue Reading

Ruth Padel’s Emerald – review

Ruth Padel, Emerald, 80 pp, £10, Chatto & Windus, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Rd, Westminster, London SW1V 2SA

In Emerald, emotional intensity flowers out of artistic restraint and its carefully measured statements achieve wide resonance. The book brings together poems prompted by the death of the poet’s mother and poems about the cutting and mining of emeralds or more generally about greenness. Grief and loss lie alongside beauty and hope, mundane experience is juxtaposed with travel, history, scientific analysis, fairytale and myth. Modes of discourse shift accordingly, though it hardly ever feels as though contrast between modes is the point. The shifts … Continue Reading