This review is taken from Stand 217, 16(1) March - April 2018.

Matthew Sweeney, Inquisition Lane (Bloodaxe, 2015)
Muriel Spark, Complete Poems (Carcanet, 2015)
Anne Caldwell, Painting the Spiral Staircase (Cinnamon, 2016)

In his ‘Afterword’ to Muriel Spark’s Complete Poems, Michael Schmidt remarks ‘Even the most rigidly shaped are voiced, and even the most casual are meticulously wrought, the diction, tempo and phrasing revealing at once the drama of the narrative and the character of the narrator.’ The same can be said of the poetry in Matthew Sweeney’s Inquisition Lane and in Anne Caldwell’s Painting the Spiral Staircase. All three collections, set in far-flung locations, transform the familiar into the unfamiliar in imagination all compact.
‘Tis the middle of the night by the Castle Clock’ are the words preceding Matthew Sweeney’s eleventh collection of poems, Inquisition Lane. The passage is extrapolated from Coleridge’s unfinished Gothic poem ‘Christabel’. This might alert readers familiar with the Coleridge to the eerie nature of much of the content of Sweeney’s latest book. The quotation, though, could ‘wrong foot’ the reader in a tantalising way. Whilst there are uncanny elements aplenty, some uttered in darkly humorous tones, these strands are woven into an otherwise richly lyrical and often poignant text. The reader may wish to hear Sweeney reading this poem. His soft Irish voice uttering the iambic opening line of his title poem, ‘Last night I walked down Inquisition Lane’ could compound a false sense of security derived from the visual text.1 The meter is apt for a post prandial constitutional in Seville, and the ...
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