The poems in Alan Jenkin’s magnificent collection are closely linked, forming a movingly autobiographical book which deals with the disjunction between the aspirations of youth and the realities of middle-age.
The narrator looks back on his twenties, full of the grand ambition to be the next Rimbaud, and wryly contrasts it with his current situation: friends dead, women lost, opportunities missed. Images of drifting, of the random patterns that fate imposes on existence, weave their way through poems full of sea-scapes and sailing boats. Ghosts loom through the mist; objects imbued with memory accumulate like driftwood. But although Alan Jenkins writes about a sense of loss and failure – his rich poetry formally dextrous and inventive, witty and subtle in its allusions – acts as a counterbalance, showing how the twisting of an emotion into shape can salvage feelings of pointlessness. Through his personal experience, he explores themes that will resonate with a broad audience: the difference between men and women.