I am slightly suspicious about the "new" copy of Matthew Francis's Dragons
which arrived from an Amazon Marketplace seller this morning, as there was a squashed aphid on the fourth page (a little of it was also on the fifth page). On the whole, though, I've had some excellent bargains buying second-hand poetry from Amazon.
I read about a dozen books of poetry while I was on holiday - Michael Hofmann, Frederick Seidel (I am not sure whether he is a genius or a knowing charlatan, possibly both), John Burnside, Charles Simic, Billy Collins (astoundingly bad - write down some trite observation, split on commas and full stops, hey presto a poem!), Bernard O'Donoghue, Lachlan MacKinnon, Anthony Caleshu (quirky poems on themes suggested by Moby Dick
) and Hugo Williams amongst others. I read Williams's Collected Poems
before I went away, the first few books were pleasant but didn't engage me, but by the late seventies he is consistently great, alternating between his childhood (the son of intermittently wealthy film stars
, his brother is the actor Simon Williams) and his shambolic love life as an adult (this Guardian interview
gives you a pretty good idea of the tone of the poems). Of the post-Collected
collections Dear Room
was gulped down in a lunch hour the day it arrived, and I saved West End Final
(his latest) as a holiday treat. Bernard O'Donoghue
occasionally finds himself tramping down the same boggy lane as Seamus Heaney, but there's no sentimentality at all in his version of rural Ireland, just hard work, exile and death - I have ordered second-hand copies of his older collections, and am waiting to see which insects are included.
One of the poems in the book that came today is online - Ocean