Charles Boyle, The Disguise, Poems 1977–2001; Christopher Reid’s The Late Sun – review

My reviews of Charles Boyle’s The Disguise, Poems 1977–2001, selected by Christopher Reid (Carcanet, paperback, £12.99) and Christopher Reid’s The Late Sun (Faber, hardback, £14.99) are available to PN Review subscribers here

 

Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio, translated by D. M. Black – review

 

Purgatorio, Dante Alighieri, translated by D. M. Black, preface by Robert Pogue Harrison,
NYRB Classics, Paperback, 488 pp, £15.99

You can read my review on the London Grip here.

Tishani Doshi, A God at the Door – review

‘Exuberance is beauty’, said William Blake, and ‘Energy is eternal delight.’ Read rapidly, Tishani Doshi’s A God at the Door is an exhilarating treat. Easily straddling the author’s Eastern and Western heritages and high and low cultures, its breadth of reference is unusual in itself, but what’s truly remarkable is the agility with which Doshi dances between different poles.  However, individual poems don’t invite the sustained lingering over that many in her previous book Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods do. In the end, it comes down to the kind of reading that means most to the individual … Continue Reading

Annie Freud, Hiddensee – review

Freighted with heavyweight literary, philosophical and artistic allusions, Annie Freud’s Hiddensee is very much an intellectual’s book and a work of rare intellectual range. The internationalism of Freud’s mind is suggested by the way Hiddensee includes not only the original texts of poems by the French Swiss poet Jacques Tornay, faced by Freud’s translations into English, but also a number of her own original poems in French and a poem in Italian (also translated into English) that seems to be hers too. Given talent and intelligence of her own, such high-powered internationalism of outlook is perhaps to be expected of … Continue Reading

Michael Vince, Long Distance – review

Michael Vince’s Long Distance is haunted by a sense of how old things live on in the present and the traces of dead things linger. This is particularly true in the first and third sections, set in England. Perhaps surprisingly, the second section, set in Greece, focuses mainly on what seems to be a single personal relationship in the present of the poems, and the fourth on glimpses of contemporary life, sometimes in England, sometimes in Greece.

‘What seems to be a single personal relationship.’ Vince appears committed to the idea that poetry should present itself objectively, however personal and subjective … Continue Reading

Fleur Adcock, The Mermaid’s Purse – review

Fleur Adcock, The Mermaid’s Purse, 80pp, £10.99, Bloodaxe Books Ltd

Fleur Adcock published her first collection in 1964 and has been honing her skills ever since. Her style has always been conversational but the voice of her poems has become ever suppler, more charged and agile. The poems of The Mermaid’s Purse combine radiantly evocative description with the relaxed rhythms of natural speech, changing tone and perspective rapidly to give the impression of a quick-minded person thinking as she speaks. The first stanza of ‘Island Bay’ is one example:

Bright specks of neverlastingness
float at me out of the blue air,
perhaps … Continue Reading

Carol Ann Duffy (ed) Empy Nest: Poems for Families – review

Empty Nest is perhaps a misleading title for Carol Ann Duffy’s wide-ranging little anthology because it suggests a strong emphasis on the sadder side of children’s growing up. The book does of course include poems poignantly expressing parents’ feelings of emptiness after their children’s departure, including the haunting title piece by the editor herself. Looking at flight from the nest from the opposite point of view, it includes others expressing children’s frustration with parents or home, their desire to escape into a wider world, or their nostalgia for what they’ve left behind. Thankfully, though, it also ranges much more widely. … Continue Reading

Pia Tafdrup, The Taste of Steel / The Smell of Snow – review

You can read my review of Pia Tafdrup’s The Taste of Steel / The Smell of Snow, translated by David McDuff and published by Bloodaxe Books, by clicking here.

Glyn Maxwell, How the Hell Are You – review

One obvious contrast between Hewitt and Maxwell is in their handling of personal life. However true or fictionalised they actually are, the autobiographical poems in Tongues of Fire seem extremely frank and direct in their revelations. Avowedly personal poems in How the Hell Are You are reserved and oblique, like ‘Daylight Saving’, an elegy for Maxwell’s father. This implies the poet’s continuing feeling of closeness to his dead father by imagining a meeting “in one of the fora / we wander together, / neither one literally here” to discuss the possible abolition of daylight saving. There are rather generically … Continue Reading

Seán Hewitt, Tongues of Fire – review

Tongues of Fire is finely honed in expression, unsettled and unsettling in content. It combines intellectual analysis with extreme sensuous alertness. There are many fine short poems on wild nature, including a series on the mythical Irish outlaw Suibhne. Beyond these, Hewitt uses metaphors both Christian and pagan – sometimes in startling ways – to suggest an almost religious reverence for life’s processes. However, such positive feelings have to maintain themselves against grief, pain and emotional conflict. Several poems deal with Hewitt’s father’s impending death by cancer. Others seem implicitly shadowed by it. Some explicitly present gay love and sexuality, … Continue Reading