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Review: Half-Life, by Michael Hulse

The best of Michael Hulse's poems remind their readers why poetry should survive. Half-Life opens with a deeply moving, and troubling poem, 'Freeman'... The rocking rhythms of Hulse's long lines embody the speaker's fluctuating feelings: "Nothing easier. Nothing more impossible". It is a poem of ferocious conflict. The speaker wishes the story-telling to stop. "But my friend will have none of it"... The poem plunges from conventional clarifty into a terrifying murkiness. Hulse's poems often turn on marvellously staged dramatic moments.[...His] myths explode in the darkest places of our own history...

The riskiness and complexity of Hulse's outlook produce his poems' most notable successes. His mature understanding underpins 'In Sant Antonio di Padua' where Hulse considers the Catholic Church, "its hotchpotch of the silly, the rotten, the tru". The poem is alive with experience, and with the irrevent energy of detail...

Hulse's poems are remarkable in their tempered understanding of Europe. Even passing details have authority "Mischa's a mushroom-gatherer./ They know about mushrooms in Russia". Hulse's descriptive details, from landscapes far from Europe's woods, are both tough and exquisite.