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

Metaphor as King

Jamie McKendrick, Selected Poems (Faber, 2016)
Tom Pickard, Winter Migrants (Carcanet, 2016)
Will Stone, The Sleepwalkers (Shearsman Books, 2016)

I have recently been reading the late American critic Cleanth Brooks, who believed that metaphor was the essence of a good poem and paradox, irony and wit key ingredients. The collections under review would not have disappointed him there.
In his admiring piece on the Tate Modern’s Giacometti’s Sculpture exhibition (TLS, 21 July 2017) Jamie McKendrick wrote: he ‘questions the solidity of sculpture in many ways: with scale, material, proportion and texture’. McKendrick’s Selected Poems (chosen from six collections) also questions solidity in a variety of ways. In his case that ‘solidity’ is the coherence of experience.
McKendrick’s poems – dreamlike, witty, odd, with their wry narratives and linguistic playfulness – traverse a universe from the back garden to deep space, from the Orkneys to Roman antiquity. As in dreams, the poet moves in and out of time and place with his own Claude glass. In Southern Italy, for example, in ‘Darkness in the Mezzogiorno’ we dig deep to find that

Lost empires jostle in the cellarage
and layer after layer of colonists lie shelved
under the cobbles with their dialects
and utensils – Roman, Saracen and Spaniard

Uncertainty is at the heart of the poet’s vision. McKendrick’s poetry thrives on ambiguity because living experience is often incomprehensible. Fortunately, this has ...
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