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Review: Saving Spaces, by Ian Pople

...Like Sean O'Brien, Pople often seems a poet of cumulative effect, rather than the isolated image. His images are normally simply-seen and unembellished, and when juxtaposed, can have surprising and illuminating effects. Apart from my favourite of the shorter poems (Owl, Hierophant, Loaves and Fishes and William Blake at the Kardomah Café) and the often exciting sequence Handiwork of Light - an enjoyable ode-in-sections to everyday landmarks (a 'singing' car park!) sacred and secular - it's the last several pieces which bring the collection fully to life. Perhaps that makes sense, but that gradual upward trajectory - from a whisper, rather than a poetic big bang - is a brave choice. Regardless, 'The Shearer and The Lamb', 'The Aerial Orchids' and 'Confessions' are beautiful sequences in which images and events - all parts of the scaffold - are often interesting in themselves as well as simply useful in context. Line lengths and breaks are precise and excitingly varied. There's music and lyricism where I felt it was missing in beginning poems.

... So it's these longer sequences to which I keep returning. In these, Pople makes full use of a trademark theological-eye view: images, juxtapositions, nature observations and mythical/religious allusions become windows to something other. For this reader, these poems are often 'at once natural and startling'. Saving Spaces, like so much poetry buried deep in England's landscape tradition, envisions 'earth as it is in heaven'. So maybe it's apt that Pople's work seems less exciting when it's rooted firmly in earth, and - like Wordsworth's - sings when it has the backing of the heavenly host behind it. More often than not, it's reliant on that theological underpinning for its power. For that, I'm not complaining.