Jeffrey Wainwright, What Must Happen (Carcanet, 2016)
Jeffrey Wainwright has found a powerful way of combining philosophical speculation with sensuous immediacy. This was apparent in his two previous collections – Clarity or Death! (2008) and The Reasoner (2012) – and he continues in this rich lyric vein in What Must Happen. At the start of his career, in his 1970 pamphlet The Important Man, he might rightly have been defined as a poet of the historical imagination. His poetry frequently reminds us, however, that to engage with history necessitates being properly attentive to the present. In Wainwright’s work this often stems from his engagement with the process – and what might sometimes be the surprising and estranging presence – of our consciousness. This also makes him particularly attentive to what otherwise passes as the utterly ordinary in the face of the dominant historical record. As with his last two collections, then, What Must Happen finds him demonstrating a wonderful facility for ruminating in the moment about the passing of time, a creative musing which includes not just the past, but the present and the future – including the afterlife.
This intense engagement with the passage of time and our appreciation of its workings lends itself well not just to lyric poetry generally, but to elegy in particular. And there are some movingly elegiac poems in this latest collection, most particularly ‘To J. D.’ which repeats across its ten stanzas the refrain ‘My dear friend, where are you now?’. This refrain begins ...
The page you have requested is restricted to subscribers only. Please enter your username and password and click on 'Continue'.
If you have forgotten your username and password, please enter the email address you used when you joined. Your login
details will then be emailed to the address specified.
If you are already a member and have not received your login details, please email us,
including your name and address, and we will supply you with details of how to access the archived material.
If you are not a member and would like to enjoy the growing online archive of Stand Magazine
, containing poems, articles, prose and reviews,
why not subscribe
to the website today?