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Review: The Icon Maker, by Paul Stubbs

The muscular lines, the moral seriousness and the passion for metaphysics in the poetry of Paul Stubbs are all reminiscent of the work of Geoffrey Hill. How many poets today write, with a straight face, about

that great
religious invertebrate,
the Holy Ghost

and describe how

the pious they
listen out only for the sound
of Satan's skeleton
shattering
against a wall?

In this, his second collection, he revisits some of the themes of The Theological Museum (Flambard, 2005). In The Pope Departs His Heaven, one of the several poems inspired by the paintings of Francis Bacon, Diego Velazquez and Hieronymus Bosch, still pacing the / prison yards of their souls, Pope Innocent X invites you to look deep into his eyes, Into the slowly-thawing refrigerator / of my soul.

For Stubbs every sob is a song and we stand, like his cripple,

before the crossroads, of sun, ground, and sky;
knowing death to be
his only compass point.

He listens, and

in my ears now only the always
diminishing racket of a cart carrying off
my bones for their final
reconstruction in the sky.

At the end he asks what creature

will attend finally to these bones?
Where my blood it drips already from
the branches of tomorrow, and dust
it imprints my one unalterable face.