Alison Brackenbury, Skies (Carcanet, 2016); Paula Bohince, Swallows and Waves (Sarabande Books, 2016); Nancy Garfield, Continental Drift (Shearsman, 2014); Mairi McInnes, Amazing Memories of Childhood, etc. (Two Rivers Press, 2016).
The poetry landscape has become extremely well stocked, especially now that the gender divide has at last become equal, but both men and women poets often succumb to the temptation of wanting to stand out by recourse to extremes. Where this is genuine, as in the past cases of Sylvia Plath or Anne Sexton, say, it often sadly extends to the poet going to the extreme of ending their life. Other poets seem to manage the agony far better and are able to live with their misery, where not actually profiting from the victimhood or perception of it. There is a danger, however, when adopting an extreme stance that is a purely literary (even fictive) persona that the mask can prove difficult to sustain and even make credible. The real problem is that what is adopted as an extreme pose is supposed to be – or hopes to be – a substitute for real excitement and engagement.
It is with great pleasure then that one turns to Alison Brackenbury’s latest collection Skies, her ninth from Carcanet, and finds poetry that sparkles with its representations of everyday life, finding that life exciting and challenging and, indeed, as joyful to express as it is to experience. Seeing the everyday as numinous paradoxically makes it all the more mysterious and engaging. The collection brims with ...
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