It’s hard to remember a time when poetry didn’t delight me. I’m enchanted by the possibilities of language. Poetry seems to be the best way of exploring, and occasionally expanding, these. I like poetry which speaks honestly about our relationship with the landscapes which we create and inhabit, so Clare, Thomas, Oswald, Machado, Lorca, Heaney. I’ve lived in the country most of my life. It deserves a clear eye. I also like the Romantics, especially Coleridge and Keats. My favourite lines of poetry ever are: “Farther and farther, all the birds / Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire”.
I live a few miles from Adlestrop, this line often comes to mind on hot summer days when I’m out in the fields which surround us.
At school I enjoyed the challenge of responding to poems. The fact that I could rely on an unseen poem being one of the exam questions also meant I could get away with less revision. So I worked at thinking about what poems do. I still enjoy doing that, and had a couple of OPOI reviews published on Sphinx before being invited to review for FRIP in 2021.
I think it’s important to show what seems remarkable and enjoyable about a book. I don’t review work that I can’t find a way into. What would be the point? Anyone can be pissy, and no collection is perfect. Discovering, and finding a way to communicate, what the writer has done well is much more interesting and rewarding.