PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Subha Mukherji Dying and Living with De la Mare Carl Phillips Fall Colors and other poems Alex Wylie The Bureaucratic Sublime: on the secret joys of contemporary poetry Marilyn Hacker Montpeyroux Sonnets David Herman Memories of Raymond Williams
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
PN Review New Issue

This review is taken from PN Review 241, Volume 44 Number 5, May - June 2018.

Cover of The Noise of a Fly
Rory WatermanOur Accents Mix
Douglas Dunn, The Noise of a Fly (Faber) £10.99
It’s been seventeen years since Douglas Dunn’s last collection. The first poem here, ‘Idleness’, implies it might not have been so long, perhaps with intimations of chaos theory for what is to come:

Can you hear them? The flap of a butterfly.
The unfolding wing of a resting wren.
The sigh of an exhausted garden-ghost.
A poem trapped in an empty fountain pen.

There is a lot of what might have been in this book, and of what once was: ‘the scent of one who is no longer here’, or the fact that ‘Something about ageing makes me witness youth / Surviving in me like a troublesome / Dilemma’. This is coupled with a clear imperative, which has perhaps always been Dunn’s greatest strength, to ‘face what happens without self-pity’, as he writes in ‘Fragility’, and to try to say things as they are, or were. As he self-cautions in ‘Wondrous Strange’, another tentative ars poetica, ‘I must ask / My Muse to save me from contriving / A forger’s touch of moonlight on the page’.

Dunn’s tongue is often close to his cheek in even the book’s most sombre poems of memento mori. In ‘The Wash’, in which he writes, ‘I don’t feel like Sisyphus, I feel like his boulder’, the ageing poet asks: ‘How long does a book, or sheet of paper, last? / If the answer is hundreds of years, does that console? / Go early to bed and outstare the clock’. Dunn retired about midway between his last collection ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image