This review is taken from Stand 230, 19(2) June - August 2021.

Peter Didsbury, A Fire Shared (LegalHighsPress, 2020)

A Fire Shared collects poems written by Peter Didsbury since Scenes from a Long Sleep, his New and Collected Poems, was published by Bloodaxe in 2003.

Didsbury country is Hull, and the East Riding. Witness ‘Words at Skipsea Brough’, ‘Words at Wharram Percy’, and a poem arising from the Yorkshire Fen (‘From the Fire Tower’), along with poems set in a Hull backyard, garden and park.

As ever, Didsbury relishes imaginative adventure. ‘Travellers’ travels from conventional reality into a painting ‘as if stepping out of a history’ and back into another world. In ‘Yellow Shoes’, a ‘concrete Path that runs the length of the Garden  Is simply there to be taken. So we’ll take it’.

This taking of different paths and dimensions is enabled by some strong liminality, whether that involve language, dream (‘How Wrong Can You Get?’) or ghostliness (as in ‘A Charmed Circle’ and ‘Ghost Work’). But the material world is not denied. Some poems begin from moments of misapprehension (‘Eleven a.m.’ and ‘The Evening Star’). The title-poem writes Anglo-Irish history from below (or rather, alongside).

Overall, A Fire Shared is not a single-themed collection. Rather, it includes many themes, modes and forms: two modern ballads (‘Braxy-Hams’ and ‘Bevis of Hampton’); fierce elegy (‘Angelophany’); eco-poetry (‘From the Fire Tower’); a praise-poem (to gin and cold pastry); and invective (‘The fashion for Rumi’). A descriptive prose-poem (‘A Pasture for Gazelles’), prose whimsy (‘Handshakes’), and a tall tale (‘Moon-Leaper’) mix with a single-sentence winter-poem (‘Stepping Outside’), miniature lyric (‘Sufficient ...
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