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Review: The Secret History, by Michael Hulse

I found Michael Hulse's long sequence poem on the death of both his parents in The Secret History moving... The poem describes the diminishing physical condition of his father at the time of his death and then describes the death of his mother in a traffic accident, poignantly described

...how, round a long slow bend in a country road,
a stranger's hurry stove in the side of her life

There is a great deal of personal detail about his father, much of which is evocative and expresses deep love...

Michael Hulse says, in the introduction to this collection, that he is trying to come to terms with the difficult legacies of the two nations, England and Germany, that were given to him at birth and that the body of these poems comprises of a quest for home. There are poems about other relationships, including intense descriptions of often hurtful love relationships with women or a specific woman.

There is raw honesty and considerable depth contained in the poetry's craftsmanship as, for instance, in The Shadow of Death which includes anger as well as aching regret:

The story was as old as love itself:
as if you'd put down a glass at a party,
you'd lost sight of the secret, lost the knack
till all that was left as the grief of lack.

We'd wished the mercy of growing old together...


Perhaps we never had a chance. Perhaps there is no art
to mend a love. Perhaps we were wrong-footed from the start.
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps, What use are words?
It broke my heart.

The theme of a sense of displacement is expressed in the beautiful Wintereisse:

I've been a stranger here from birth,
a journeyman on homeless earth
an ancient out of time, a boy,
a saddened heart surprised by joy,
A lover in ideal vein
acquiring expertise in pain,
supposing love might still redeem
the unaccommodated dream...

This is his talent at its height.