An innovative three-part collection. Full of surprises, McEwen’s linguistic inventiveness, willingness to take risks with form and sharp, intelligent wit combine to give the reader precision without complacency. This is poetry that subverts expectations, that makes the reader work, not by being dense and obscure, but by twists of language and nothing ever being quite what it seems. So in the first section (Your private box) we meet the horses, but cannot see them whole as, “…Stair-rods / of rain have welded them onto the banks / in the dark.” Or watch Tai Chi performers “…stroke invisible objects / like desire or fear’’. Moving on to section 2 (Father lost lost) we enter the realm of family memory, only to have the domestic and quotidian subverted by what is not being said, So in ‘Watch the Birdie’ cousins at the seaside early in 1914 are ‘four chaps’ who “slapstick towards / this comedy / vanishing / point.”; the poignancy of the moment left for the reader to find. Finally, section 3 (The clockwork clockwork world) takes observation to a new level, as in ‘Our Lady of the Pylons’ in which we see “the aching weight of power hung from each shoulder.” An extraordinary poetry debut.
Praise for Ian McEwen’s poetry:
Ian McEwen’s poems run across the page like figures in flight. There is real poetic invention here: technique and voice discovering new possibilities. - George Szirtes
…an agile, precise language in waves, rising and falling, ever forming itself, a glassy, shimmery experimental music that savours instability. - Moniza Alvi