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Review: Sol, by Andrew Johnston

Rosie Bailey, Envoi 152, February 2009

The poems in Andrew Johnston's Sol are often as lean [..], though the most significant pieces in this, his fifth collection, extend to several pages. Johnston is that rare thing, a poet who finds more to celebrate in experience than to grieve over. He's not seduced by the tone of easy melancholy of so many contemporary writers, and his awareness of the invigorating delights of the world is refreshing.
Here's a man who loves words, who isn't afraid to play with them, even invent them, in order to say what needs to be said: their sound as well as their meaning, their echoes and resonance's, all their wayward extravagances, are honoured. He's alert to found language, and to the cadences other poets have used: all of it useful to him. He's a man for the essence of the moment, too - and moments, in their specialness, are not easy to capture. Here's his take on the waywardness of The Days:

Wednesday, I said, Wednesday
would have suited me better because -

I was trying to explain
but you thought I was insisting

so the days, one after another,
that seem to insist

are only trying
to make things clear

or the letters of The Opinion Page, with their urgency, their overtones of inevitable doom, so bravely pushed / out into a stormy ocean of life around them. Or the waiting-room magazines, so deftly and wittily handled in The Magazines. I enjoyed the self-deprecating wit, too, of Hypermarket; it's hard to resist the spell of a deeply serious poet who doesn't take himself seriously.