An auditory imagination
Posted 19th July 2012
I loved the imaginative and technical panache of this collection.
Rooted in humdrum contemporary actualities James's poems flower into bizarre fantasies of hallucinatory vividness. In an interview after winning the National Poetry Prize the author himself described such poems as "small rebellions against the mundane" and for me it was poems of that kind that supplied the keenest pleasure in the volume. Take "The Windmill Conversion Neighbourhood Watch". Perhaps there's already a flicker of imaginative life when you put the lethally flat phrases "windmill conversion" and "neighbourhood watch" together, but the first line of the actual poem blazes with unexpectedness: "We patrolled the wetlands like weather-beaten Daleks". Rippling with humour, the whole piece is as visually arresting as Doctor Who has become in the age of HDTV and it takes in equally strange perspectives, but - as in Doctor Who - always with one foot in our everyday world. Even better, to my mind, is "The Flood", which I think alludes to and plays itself against Edwin Muir's fine "The Horses", though it relates to ecological concerns rather than fears of nuclear war.
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