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This review is taken from PN Review 235, Volume 43 Number 5, May - June 2017.

Cover of Pennine Tales
Kelvin CorcoranA Crowd Worth Joining Peter Riley, Pennine Tales Calder Valley Poetry, 2016
£4.50

Pennine Tales consists of twenty-four poems of twelve lines and is written from Hebden Bridge in the Calder Valley. Before we read a single poem from the book we know Hebden Bridge is associated with poets, they seem to be thick on the ground and Riley sets about drawing several more of them into the locality. Ted Hughes is recalled, J.H. Prynne addressed and Michael Haslam cited as a neighbour and friend. In addition Wordsworth, Clare, Shakespeare and Hardy, ‘guide and spokesman’, are evoked as nocturnal walking companions and hailed as ‘a crowd worth joining’. However, Riley’s attention to poetry and its practitioners past and present, familiar to readers of his articles in the Fortnightly Review, is only one aspect of this collection. These poems are about the late-night minibus coming to pick up passengers from the pub, the last train to Leeds and the other immediate experiences of a particular landscape. Their tone is elegiac as the quotidian is tenderly recorded passing into the night which sweeps up through the valley. These are beautiful and engaging poems which stand in the centre of Riley’s achievements as a poet.

Not the least intriguing aspect of Pennine Tales is how it makes for a comparison with Riley’s previous book in 2015, the Forward Prize-nominated Due North. Whilst both works share concerns about particular northern-English places – Manchester and Hebden Bridge are less than thirty miles apart – much else is different, besides the obvious difference in the number of pages (Due North is ...
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