I will accept a limited number of poetry books and pamphlets for review from publishers only. I do not accept self-published books for review. Publishers should get in touch with me at allegropoetry at gmail dot com with details of the book and I will let them know whether or not I have the capacity to review the publication. Reviews will appear on this page.
Sally Long (Editor)
John McKeown, Ill Nature, Mica Press, £10.00, ISBN 9781869848309
John McKeown’s latest collection is an intriguing combination of astute observations of people and the natural world. The poems, at their best, lead the reader to places that are easy to enter in the imagination but which leave more than a hint of the intangible which stays in the mind long after the book has been put down.
A number of poems touch on the subject of relationships. In ‘The Gold Standard’ McKeown writes:
Locked in a vault
whose combination I’ve lost,
lie, numbered, the still moist
petals of your smile.
There are glimpses of tenderness combined with the suggestion of longing and loss in this poem which are echoed in ‘Forgotten’ where the speaker evokes a sense of desolation:
body of you is lifted
from my hands, floated out
into the stream, while I sit
on the bare bank,
fragmented as Ophelia.
But it is when he turns to the natural world that McKeown is at his best. There are stunning images: ‘The swifts, winged shrapnel’ and the opening stanza of ‘Swallows on Klimentská’:
I pass beneath
the swallows’ swift net
of sung flight tight knit
between the roofs
Sometimes, though, the effect is spoilt by attempting to say too much. In the opening line of ‘Continental Drift’ the choice of ‘lugubrious’ distracts the attention and in ‘Buttercups’ the poet would have done well to have the reader contemplating buttercups floating ‘on stems so fine they’re invisible’. But the strongest poems are written with the confidence of the opening poem ‘Coming Down’ with its striking personification of the moon:
The full Moon up all night,
yellow-faced, like a light left on
at a party with all asleep,
hangs in the descent now
This is a collection which repays re-reading.