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Recent poetry at its finest – a roundup of reviews.

Recent poetry at its finest – a roundup of reviews.

Book cover or Rapture’s Road

Rapture’s Road by Seán Hewitt (Jonathan Cape, £12.99)

The opening poem, “Ministry”, confesses the speaker’s partner’s enjoyment in their breaking and the pleasure it brings him. The lovers, situated by the lake, become a part of the landscape, their lovemaking becoming its own unique ecosystem. The speaker’s fascination with music is evident throughout the text, with mentions of lullabies, bird songs, and even a heavenly soundproofed room. This could potentially challenge the traditional portrayal of gay relationships in religious beliefs. However, the power and passion in Hewitt’s words cannot be denied, such as in the line “I made for him a word / Adam could not have said inside the garden”. The core of these poems lies in the connection and separation between lovers, as seen in the line “I needed to live whole within my longing, punished you for your kind, unknowing love.”

Book cover of God Complex

Rachael Allen’s novel “God Complex” is available for purchase from Faber at a price of £12.99.

Allen’s second compilation blends a coldly observant style reminiscent of Plath with the tight propulsion of Denise Riley, though the voice in this delicately woven anti-epic is entirely unique. It explores a poetics of deterioration: poetic structure erodes, personal and environmental ecologies become contaminated and contaminate in turn. The speaker’s impossible desire is to “disrupt the history of women’s stories in my life.” The ownership of the God complex is uncertain: “A blemish on your neck in the shape and mark of a religious burn, I caused that. I call it the worship condition.” Allen infuses into the form the same deeply ingrained co-dependency and interdependence her speakers have with their partners: “I lived so intensely tethered to the present moment that I lost interest in myself.” Perception, emotion, and physiology come together in a precise economy; one adjective struck, one feeling deleted, and the intricately charged latticework of the God Complex would crumble. The fragility of this compilation is its strength.

Book cover of How Fire Descends

“Fire’s Descent: A Collection of Poems by Serhiy Zhadan, Translated by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps, Released by Yale for £12.99.”

“The opening of a book can be likened to the start of a rainstorm,” says the famous Ukrainian poet and activist in this significant collection that spans seven years of resistance, witness, and unwavering hope. Zhadan’s poems are concise and prophetic, graceful and easily understood: “Your silence will not be remembered by anyone. / Only you can name the nearby rivers.” I use the word “radical” because Zhadan connects the ordinary daily life of eastern Ukraine with the unseen structures of existence and is deeply attuned to the forced impermanence and frailty of buildings and social systems in post-Soviet eastern Europe. Thus, the “frightened soul” is compared to “a dog locked in the kitchen,” “carefree folks” are like “fish [driven] by the rhythms of ground water,” and trees recognize each other “like two people who once shared the same hospital room.” While Zhadan’s poems have a universal quality, they also reflect the horrors of current warmongering in the Middle East and eastern Europe: “They never told us that death is local, / it doesn’t stay within the hospital walls, / it holds little interest for anyone, / and is not part of the funeral procession.”

Book cover of The Many Hundreds of the Scent

The Many Hundreds of the Scent by Shane McCrae (Corsair, £12.99)

McCrae’s ninth volume moves fluidly between his own personal history and reimagined mythologies, exploring adolescent realizations about race. Unlike other contemporary poets, McCrae displays a Keatsian negative capability in his syntax, which is both tense and intense: “I struggle to understand / My own body, its existence. To live / And accept the darkness of / My black hand.” McCrae’s use of language is deliberate and precise, with each word steeped like a tealeaf until its full meaning is extracted. His stanzas often consist of eight or nine words that flow back and forth without any unnecessary repetition: “I love America still / Because I must, despite the fact that you are still / Alive. But how can you be alive / When your black child is dead, who was once alive?” What sets McCrae apart is the way he reveals truths through structured meter and form, giving his poems a sense of inevitability rather than self-centered epiphanies: “Officer, the reason / You know I am dead is because it seems I bow to you.” McCrae’s poetry is not meant to be summarized; it must be experienced through reading.

Book cover of Eleanor Among the Saints

Rachel Mann’s book “Eleanor Among the Saints” is priced at £11.99 and published by Carcanet.

Eleanor Rykener was a seamstress, barmaid, and sex worker in 14th century England who identified as transgender. In this collection, trans poet Mann imagines Eleanor as a lyric poet, a murdered trans girl, and the mystics Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe. Mann’s writing moves from dramatic monologues to personal mythologies, with one poem reflecting on the body and biblical teachings. Using unconventional language to enhance the traditional form of faith-based poetry, Mann’s words invigorate and maintain a focus on the afterlife: “Will I find paradise or be trapped in a glass world?”

Source: theguardian.com