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Selima Hill, Women in Comfortable Shoes – review

Selima Hill’s Women in Comfortable Shoes is different again [to O’Brien’s Embark and Gross’s The Thirteenth Angel]. The poems are all short – many if not most six or fewer lines. They’re grouped into sequences but even within these I think they largely work as separate units. They have the punchiness of epigrams but unlike epigrams what most offer is not pithy reflections on life in general but flashes of extremely subjective response to another person or to the speaker’s immediate circumstances. She appears at different ages, as a child at home or a girl in a boarding … Continue Reading

Philip Gross, The Thirteenth Angel – review

Allowing for density of print, The Thirteenth Angel probably contains well over twice as many words as O’Brien’s Embark. Its fertility in ideas, images and perceptions is almost breath-taking. So is the vivid precision of its language of physical description. The world it presents is above all crowded with movement.  This is a part of the experience of modern life that Gross captures brilliantly. Glittering details seem to leap off every page. Looking down at a road at night the poet sees ‘the cold blush of blue / on a cheek: stranger, her mobile tingling / with presence.’ He … Continue Reading

Sean O’Brien’s Embark – review

In Embark, Sean O’Brien deftly shifts between registers and tones to present and think about the world in different ways. In his elegies, melancholy recollection is expressed in a way that combines elegance with conversational intimacy. Other poems are more obviously highly wrought, like ‘Of the Angel’ with its archaic-sounding title. This describes a boy at a Remembrance Day ceremonial –

The poor mad angel boy of twelve
With the unblinking gold-green stare
And the frightening permanent smile

That should be love but cannot be
Is brought by his mother to join the crowd.

That opening already trembles between the mundane and … Continue Reading