Yeats – giving words life in ‘To a Shade’

The first stanza of Yeats’ ‘To a Shade’ ran round my head on my walk this morning (I’d mentioned it in an email to a friend yesterday). Here are the lines I was thinking of:

If you have revisited the town, thin Shade,
Whether to look upon your monument
(I wonder if the builder has been paid)
Or happier-thoughted when the day is spent
To drink of that salt breath out of the sea
When grey gulls flit about instead of men,
And the gaunt houses put on majesty …

It came to mind in the email as just one example of Yeats’ wonderful gift for … Continue Reading

Martha Kapos, Music, Awake Her – review


You can link to my London Grip review of Martha Kapos’s book with its brilliant and startlingly original images by clicking here.


C K Stead, This Side of Silence – review

The pleasures of This Side of Silence are largely opposite to those of Earth House. With some twenty-five volumes of poetry behind him, the nonagenarian C K Stead expends considerable skill in the effort not to sound poetic while giving his words maximum sharpness and punch. Poem after poem achieves remarkable success in this way. For example, ‘Ode to Autumn’ brilliantly compresses a shimmering of dry wit, vivid metaphorical description and complex emotion into a piece of apparently casual, almost slangy speech. It begins

This day’s officially the first of autumn
but it seems not to know.
The sun’s all … Continue Reading

Matthew Hollis, Earth House – review

Most of my poetry reading involves concentrated focusing on short poems or passages. Much of Earth House demands reading of a different kind. It asks readers to open themselves to a flow of verbal music and of images and ideas that are sometimes concrete and sharp, sometimes blurrily evocative, letting emotional and intellectual suggestions accumulate at their own pace. The result is beautiful, often moving and in many ways elusive, becoming frustrating if you try to focus it too definitely. Absorbing it requires a kind of receptive passivity, like the calling from the thicket in ‘Hedge Bird’, of which Hollis … Continue Reading

Fleur Adcock, Collected Poems – review


You can read my review of this sumptuous Collected Poems by clicking on this link to the London Grip:

London Grip Poetry Review – Fleur Adcock

Christopher Childers, The Penguin Book of Greek and Latin Lyric Verse – review

Christopher Childers’ The Penguin Book of Greek and Latin Lyric Verse is a vast undertaking with a great deal to offer those like me who enjoy reading classical literature but can’t read it in its original languages. Epic and drama are excluded, as is the prose literature, but ‘lyric’ is defined very widely indeed, covering both what the ancients would have understood by the term – poems written for performance to the lyre and in a range of metres associated with such performance – and more broadly short or medium length poems speaking in the first person and / or … Continue Reading

More vivid than the merely ‘concrete’ – Marvell’s ‘The Mower to the Glo-Worms’

When we talk about sensuousness in poetry we tend, I think, to mean the intensity of the sensory evocativeness of imagery and description. We might be thinking of lines like ‘The luscious clusters of the vine / Upon my mouth do crush their wine’ from Marvell’s ‘The Garden’. There, physical sensations of taste and touch are directly referred to by ‘luscious’ and ‘crush’. The sensuous impressions evoked by the meanings of the words aren’t just a matter of meaning, though. They’re powerfully reinforced by sound, and even more by the physical sensations of forming the sounds in our mouths. ‘Luscious’, … Continue Reading

Linda France, Took My Way Down, Like a Messenger, To the Deep – review

You can read my review of this beautiful and superbly produced chapbook by clicking on the link to the London Grip site below.


London Grip Poetry Review – Linda France


David Harsent, A Broken Man in Flower: Versions of Yannis Ritsos – review


Here’s a link to my London Grip review of this fine book. With thanks to the Poetry Reviews editor, Michael Bartholomew-Biggs:


London Grip Poetry Review – David Harsent

Sean O’Brien, It Says Here – review

I’d like to start by quoting the fine short poem ‘Names’ from O’Brien’s new book It Says Here. If just saying it aloud enchants you as much as it does me then this is a book you should buy:

Ravenspur, Ravensrodd, Ravenser Odd,
Salt-heavy bells heard only by God.

Drink to the lost and the longshore drift:
When there is nothing the names will be left.

It’s reminiscent of Geoffrey Hill’s ‘Merlin’ in its particular elegiac feeling and tune, but the names it refers to aren’t literary in the way those in Hill’s poem are (‘Arthur, Elaine, Mordred, they are all … Continue Reading