Review: Mir Mahfuz Ali, Midnight, Dhaka

[this review first appeared in Poetry Wales] * Midnight, Dhaka by Mir Mahfuz Ali (Seren) It’s unclear whether the publicists for, and previous commentators on, Mir Mahfuz Ali’s collection Midnight, Dhaka have radically misread the book, or whether they’ve consciously shied away from mentioning what is certainly the central tenet and most striking feature of…

An Open Letter to Amy Key

[this open letter first appeared on the Kaffeeklatsch blog] * To whom it may concern (hey Amy), I just finished reading your book – great stuff. I don’t know if you’re interested at all in what I thought, but I wanted to follow up my little drunken ramble in the pub about how it’s been mistaken in…

Review: Andrew Fitzsimons, Marianne Burton, Caoilinn Hughes

[this review first appeared in Poetry Ireland Review] * Andrew Fitzsimons, What the Sky Arranges (Isobar Press) Marianne Burton, She Inserts the Key (Seren) Caoilinn Hughes, Gathering Evidence (Carcanet) There will always be a question as to how poetry in translation should situate itself between two hard-to-reconcile tasks. That is, should a new volume of poetry strive to educate…

Review: Rachel Boast, David Morley and Helen Mort

[this review first appeared in The Poetry Review] * Rachael Boast, Pilgrim’s Flower (Picador) David Morley, The Gypsy and the Poet (Carcanet) Helen Mort, Division Street (Chatto & Windus) From the off, Rachael Boast’s Pilgrim’s Flower is not shy from wearing its referentiality on its sleeve: the opening words of the collection are “Resembling Cocteau, the two statues…

Review: Jorie Graham, The Taken-Down God

[this review first appeared in the The Warwick Review] * Jorie Graham, The Taken-Down God (Carcanet) The Taken-Down God is a selection of poems from five books of Graham’s, picking up where her Pulitzer-prize winning The Dream of a Unified Field  (Selected Poems 1974-1994) left off, and covering her work up until immediately before her most…

Review: Michael Mackmin, from there to here

Michael Mackmin, from there to here (HappenStance) * This is the third version of this review: maybe it’s the bad habit of the poetry world, but I’m just as much as the sucker as we all are for trying to reduce things to their single common principle. It’s the same instinct, I think, as the poetic (modernist?)…

Review: Ailbhe Darcy, Imaginary Menagerie

Ailbhe Darcy, Imaginary Menagerie (Bloodaxe) * Darcy’s book is intriguing. In general, because of its sheer energy, and the way in which it wears its influences; and, more specifically to me (as a reader but also as an editor of Kaffeeklatsch), in that it seems to exemplify – in its strengths and its weaknesses – the…

Review: John Peck, Contradance

[this review first appeared in PN Review] John Peck, Contradance (University of Chicago Press) The cover of Peck’s Contradance depicts the figures of two dancers, as if folded from paper itself bearing the image of a “nineteenth-century artist’s rendering of an Etruscan woman dancing” which has in turn been appropriated for “a poster advertising a 1987…

Review: Arthur Rimbaud / John Ashbery (translator), Illuminations

[this review first appeared in Kaffeeklatsch] * Arthur Rimbaud, Illuminations (Carcanet) The speed with which the critics have moved to praise Ashbery’s translations of Rimbaud is impressive. Shocking, really, given that, were you to pile together all of the uncertainties concerning the interpretation of Rimbaud’s writing, the interpretation of Ashbery’s writing, the controversial status of the schools…

Review: Tom Warner, Faber New Poets 8

[this review first appeared in Kaffeeklatsch] * Tom Warner, Faber New Poets 8 (Faber and Faber) There’s a certain type of movement, a certain trajectory of events: a kind of arc, a kind of return. I’m trying to think of examples of this movement. When you see people at a party establish a connection of intimacy,…

Review: Ian Pople, Saving Spaces

[this review first appeared in PN Review] * Ian Pople, Saving Spaces (Arc) Although the title of Ian Pople’s third book may not be a promising introduction – hovering as it does between semi-religious banality and the name of a daytime television-programme – it does pose a question which refracts interestingly over Pople’s poetry. ‘Saving Spaces’,…

Review: Robert Hass, The Apple Trees at Olema

[this review first appeared in PN Review] * Robert Hass, The Apple Trees at Olema: New & Selected Poems (Bloodaxe) A New and Selected from a poet of Hass’s stature – Pulitzer winner, former poet-laureate of the US, acclaimed translator and friend of Nobel-laureate Czesław Miłosz – might be seen as an opportunity to merely restate…