Monday, 31 January 2022

Acumen's Guest Poem

I'm chuffed to report that my poem Translator, Traitor is now being featured on Acumen's website. It was first printed in Issue 101 and is one of this week's Guest Poems. You can read it via this link.

Thursday, 27 January 2022

Evangeline Paterson essay at Wild Court

Evangeline Paterson, now a name that barely seems to ring a bell, was one of the most outstanding poets of her generation. Today, via my new essay on Wild Court, I encourage you to discover her exceptional poems. Here's a quick snippet...

...Paterson’s speciality is the perceptive empathetic observation of human relations, loaded with understanding and compassion for the invisible limits we place on ourselves...
You can read the essay in full at Wild Court by following this link.

Thursday, 20 January 2022

A reflection on who we are, David Cooke's Sicilian Elephants

David Cooke’s poetry might be rooted in anecdote, but those roots are simply his point of departure for words that reach up towards the light. In this respect, his new collection, Sicilian Elephants (Two Rivers Press, 2021), builds on his previous work.

Many of these poems, all written from the perspective of a U.K. resident, were probably crafted prior to the consequences of the fateful referendum. However, their openness to Europe now grants them a fresh impetus in the context of Brexit. At first glance, excellent poems about gardening and DIY might seem geographically limited and limiting. In fact, the opposite is true. Let’s take the example of the closing lines to Grand Designs, which ends as follows:

…until once more in the back of their minds
they hear children squealing
who slid down a door on the stairs,
but now live hours away: they have little time
to decorate and even less for visits.

This reflection on the slip-slip of generations can then be compared and contrasted to an extract from Leaving Vigo:

…All he has or needs
is what he has managed to pack
into a cardboard suitcase,

with a pair of sturdy shoes
and the words he’s learned in a tongue
he’ll never handle like his kids.

At his back the town recedes –
the oyster market and the steps
that lead to shops above it.

He might be centre stage –
this man who is scurrying
towards his future...

The protagonists of both poems are parents. In one, their parenthood is slipping into the past. In the other, it is ahead of him. In both, a moment on a parent’s journey is being portrayed.

What’s more, difference and similarity, implicit comparisons and contrasts, are all laid out to be explored. Where less skilled poets might try to hammer home their points, Cooke uses juxtaposition and allows his readers to think for themselves. For instance, the immigrant from Vigo will clearly never belong in his new home, but are the parents in the first poem also being displaced themselves from their own lives? What is the meaning of belonging? What unites us as people and what separates us?

In the poems that are set in Europe, Cooke never looks through the lens of a tourist on a trip. Instead, his method reminds us of Larkin’s The Importance of Elsewhere: the act of travel enlightens the poet by providing a counterpoint to home. Sicilian Elephants would already have been a thought-provoking book even prior to Brexit. Nevertheless, it now becomes especially significant as a reflection on who we are. David Cooke’s collection brings us closer to Europe: it’s poetry for our times.