A Graph Review: 65 with high points 75
Chatto & Windus.
£10.00 ppbk 978 070118877 1
40 poems over 54 pages with a page each for Notes and Acknowledgements.
This is Blake Morrison’s first poetry collection for almost thirty years, each poem a possible gem (such as This Poem…). He lives in London and is currently Professor of Creative Writing at Goldsmiths College. He was born in Yorkshire
Of the first thirteen poems all are of the sea or coastline (Suffolk). The odd one out is the third, ‘Evacuation‘ which may have the merest connection with mention of a sluice and a bridge. However, the placement only seems quirky as it breaks conspicuously from the previous two poems and the next ten.
The first, the longest and the title poem is lyrical, full of rhyme from end to middle, full and half rhymes with a rolling of the words that smack and smooth their way throughout the poem. Rhythms that push and break like the waves themselves on a beach, pleasuring and threatening the Shingle Street and its inhabitants, real or lost. For me, a beautiful poem that balances all that a poem should be.
The second poem; Flotsam , shifts the style and content a little but moves to the mystery of coastal marshes. After the third, as mentioned, the collection dips into a variety of coastal, themes where memory sneaks in.
Moving on to the fourteenth poem; slight, brief but central to poetry : May I quote?
Caution all prose hogs.
Poetry’s a speed bump.
It’s there to make you slow down.
And from here we move along lines of journeys in fact, in life and the use of memory as you recognise yourself through the poems and mortality prods. Nostalgia creeping in frequently, though each poem shines on a different aspect, every view a possible reminder to the reader or foreshadowing their future emotions. Mostly blank verse the after the early poetry with an exception tucked with ‘Deer’.
For me, the heart of the book will remain the throb of the sea in the first two poems and the nuggets of lines in the likes of ‘Harvest’ that drag past poets and poetry into the present. Over all, it bursts with the majesty of the sea and moves into a series of poetic settlements that we all may visit. Contemplative on life, memory and mortality. The last poem, ‘Latecomer‘ sums up an attitude in the first line: ‘All I am saying has been said before, but not by me.’ and progresses into a gentle end to the collection. As an old reader I can close the book with some thoughtful, caring images still lingering.
My personal pick of the poems: Shingle Street, Lent, Deer, Empties, Latecomer
To resort to a cliche: ‘highly recommended’