Category Archives: Views and Reviews

Review of ‘The Air Year’ by Caroline Bird

My Review of ‘The Air Year’ the new poetry collection (Carcanet) by Caroline Bird reproduced here, was also published in ‘The High Window’ in May 2020.

In her exhilarating how-to essay, ‘The Discipline of Getting Lost: On the Impossibility of Poems’ (in ‘Craft’, ed. R,Dastidar, Nine Arches Press, 2019), Caroline Bird advises poets to ‘Fling open the door of your first line’. ‘Write a first line,’ she instructs, ‘that thrusts you out, unprepared, into a world of your own making’. Her latest collection of poems, ‘The Air Year’ offers textbook examples of such first lines:

‘Nancy found an entire torpedo in the forest’ (Nancy and the Torpedo)
‘I think ‘so, this is death’ and wonder why’ (Checkout)
‘It’s like being a windmill in a vacuum’ (The Deadness)
‘The hotel was called Napthalene Heights’(Napthalene Heights)
‘I do kind gestures. Remove my appendix.’ (Sanity)
‘No-one dies here or chews their food properly’ (Loveborough)

What is an ‘Air Year’? Is it airy, airy-fairy, airless, full of hot air, airborne? Is it a breath of fresh air, up in the air, a pocket, a bubble of air? A time of coming up for air? The collection is all of these and more. As a reader, I was impelled to obsessive free association, to frequent raids on my dictionary, the poet’s baroque cascades of gorgeous, inventive, often preposterous imagery inviting me to join in the fun.
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‘Re-visioning Exile’, Review of ‘Afterwardness’ by Mimi Khalvati

My review of ‘Afterwardness’ by Mimi Khalvati reproduced here, was published in The High Window in January, 2020.

Mimi Khalvati’s new book is a sustained series of meditations on the theme of exile. For its eloquent deployment of form and the depth of its emotional excavation, I consider it poetry of the highest order.

Though autobiographical, the book never gives us personal history for its own sake, but always in the service of its theme: life in the perennial ‘afterwardness’ of exile.

The fifty-six sonnets – the Italian form invokes Petrarch’s ‘Rime Sparse’, his great document of unappeasable longing – begin with ‘Questions’. A child, in flight on a plane, discovers itself to be ‘smaller than you were…Something has made you shrink/or else something has made the seatback grow’, travelling ‘away from all you know’ as the sky darkens. The child, with its unknown companion are ‘the only ones not gone or disappearing’, and it struggles ‘to push the feelings down, the questions/the stillborn questions never to be answered’. This literal flight from home is disorienting, hallucinatory – to be up in the air with no familiar ground, nothing to rely on but a ‘seat-belt’ of trust. Continue reading