The body is the ‘bad machine’ of George Szirtes’ latest book of poems. The sudden death of his elderly father and of his younger friend, the poet Michael Murphy, remind him how machines – sources of energy and delight in their prime – go so easily wrong; and that change in the body is a signal for moving on. But language too is a body. Here, politics, assimilation, desire, creatureliness and the pleasure and loss of the body, mingle in various attenuated forms such as lexicon, canzone, acrostics, mirror poems, postcards, and a series of ‘minimenta’ after Anselm Kiefer whose love of history as rubble and monument haunts this collection. George Szirtes is one of our most inventive – and constantly reinventing – poets, and Bad Machine shows him developing new themes and new ways of writing in poems which stretch the possibilities of form and question language and its mastery.
Philip Fried’s Squaring the Circle is humorous and yet also mysterious in its evocation of esoteric physics and theology. The title poem presents a mystic/scientific quest for an impossible geometry as both a vaudevillian historical catastrophe and a way of understanding God. Throughout, Fried uses pastiche and the mashup of texts to explore historical moments and personal history. Behind its many forms and approaches, however, the book conveys the strong sense of a “persona”—the feeling, as Stanley Kunitz once said, that the poet has imagined a person who could write these poems.
Moniza Alvi’s new book is unified by birds. Her creations ‘Motherbird’ and ‘Fatherbird’ are inspired by her parents, and by the loss of her father and by his emigration from Pakistan. Among the many bird-related poems are versions of the French poets Jules Supervielle and Saint-John Perse, and poems ‘after’ the paintings of the Spanish-Mexican surrealist artist Remedios Varo. Blackbird, Bye Bye is Moniza Alvi’s first new poetry book since her T.S. Eliot Prize-shortlisted collection At the Time of Partition, published in 2013.
Milner Place: Born 25/1/30… First job timber faller before doing National Service 1948/50… Some time at Agricultural College but opted out… worked as barman… managed farm and estate… got involved in horse racin… 1953… sailed to South Africa… worked as undergound surveyor copper mines… managed fruit farm…1955 returned to England to manage another farm, left and entered journalism…1958… sailed to new York …1958/61… Bahamas, did some surveying work. Bought a dinghy and learned to sail. Then a sloop, freighting and fishing… skippered for Burl Ives… took over yacht in Miami… returned to England… left for Majorca…Dec 1961… smuggling run to Algiers during war, cargo one man… Supplemented income by smuggling money from England for Brit living abroad…1962… took over staysail schooner, working Balearics and wintered yacht in Ibiza…spent time in Bilboa and Madrid…Sailed to Italy, left Autumn 1963…wintered Madrid…1964…bought sloop and summered Burnham-on-Crouch…1965…took job as captain of ketch built in Holland and sailed her to Lisbon…met Count of Barcelona and his son (now King of Spain). Wintered in Gibraltar and Tangiers, then to Cadiz and Seville…back to Lisbon where did several ocean races with Count of Barcelona…quit job with ketch and sailed with Count for England…1966 Autumn…sailed own sloop to Bordeaux and via Canal du Midi to Toulouse…left for Denmark to convert a working trading schooner to a yacht… 1967…sailed same to Malta to effect conversion…did a delivery to Greece (minus keel)…August 1968 quit job and returned Spain…then France to pick up own sloop…lost it off Spanish coast, wandered round Andalucia, returned London courtesy of consular services…back to Malta to do honeymoon charter for couple, sailing to Tunisia via Lampedusa…1969…employed as consultant by Forte’s International Hotels on projects in Sardinia and Greece…left for Ecuador for job as consultant Tourist Investments S.A…9 months organizing marlin fishing fleet, Punta Carnero…left for Peru under threat of charge of Piracy, consultancy work on Manu River project, others in Brazil and Panama…1971… England and then Grand Canary, where scratched a living as a photographer…1973…took off for Mexico to write unsuccessful novel…1976…moved to Majorca now with partner, Dorothy and stepson Paul…1977 first poems published in Spanish…trip to Canada – hashish smugglers – didn’t…1979/82…Boroughbridge, N.Yorks… worked as petrol station attendant, filling shelves at supermarket, night-watchman and running a B&B…1982/87… ran hotel in Alston, Cumbria until bankrupt…Jan 1987…came to Huddersfield, went to workshops, became sort of poet.
“This imagination creates a mystery you can’t paraphrase. Poems put things, or create things, in a place where they, and we, have never quite been before. A concise, mysterious language alters things. The result is a wonderful fidelity to the way things may be imagined, which also suggests it might just also be the way things are, once altered, re-imagined and imaginatively transformed.” John Brown Poet/writer, Northern Ireland
Are we corrupt or innocent, fragmented or whole? Are responsibility and freedom irreconcilable? Do we value memory or succumb to our forgetfulness? Application for Release from the Dream, Tony Hoagland’s fifth collection of poems, pursues these questions with the fierce abandon of one who needs to know how a citizen of 21st-century America can stay human. With whiplash nerve and tender curiosity, Hoagland surveys the damage and finds the wonder that makes living worthwhile. Mirthful, fearless, and precise, these poems are full of judgment and mercy. Tony Hoagland’s poems poke and provoke at the same time as they entertain and delight. He is American poetry’s hilarious ‘high priest of irony’, a wisecracker and a risk-taker whose disarming humour, self-scathing and tenderness are all fuelled by an aggressive moral intelligence. He pushes the poem not just to its limits but over the edge.