Out of Breath - Noel Williams

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There is a crisp narrative voice that pushes this collection forward: ‘The moment stands and stares at us, two figures / on a snowscape on a moor, /first marks in a sentence.’ (Snow on the Edge) Themes of memory, relationships, and sense of place mingle in a collection that is lively and varied, but always united by a mature voice that takes language seriously, even while playing with it. So in ‘Concrete Poetry’ we read: ‘Yet I saw cracks in the carpark prised open by daffodils / and a tulip-bright woman high on spring in her heels’. There is a deep recognition of change and the fragility of life in these sometimes poignant, always perfectly controlled pieces, summed up in the title poem: ‘I listen to the surgeon whittling old bones / wonder what I can make / of the one thing I have left.’ This is honed material from a poet long overdue for a debut collection.

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