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This review is taken from PN Review 249, Volume 46 Number 1, September - October 2019.

Cover of Erato
Heather TreselerGhost Nights
Deryn Rees-Jones, Erato (Seren) £9.99

There is a startling moment in Sigmund Freud’s ‘Mourning and Melancholia’ in which his clinical mask cedes to something like emotional honesty with his reader: ‘Why this process [… of grief] should be so extraordinarily painful is not at all easy to explain in terms of mental economics,’ he observes with exasperation. Yet he concludes, ‘It is worth noting that this pain seems natural to us.’ Freud marvels at the sheer cost of mourning – its outsised role in our affective lives – but concedes that grief is part of the tax of being human.

Mourning is turned into an engine of music in Deryn Rees-Jones’s Erato. The accomplished poet’s fifth book channels the Greek muse of lyric poetry to explore love’s repatriations: how it returns us to old countries of desire, to latent territories of need, despite the ways in which time and task continually force us forward. In prose poems, sonnets, clever erasures, sharply edged lyrics, and blues stanzas, Rees-Jones varies the mode of her melody, drawing as ably on post-modern techniques as neo-Romantic imagery.

This ambidexterity is rare. The poet, moreover, balances the high polish of protean craft with attention to the ideological frames around the lyric moment. She assimilates the paradox that so puzzled Freud to render grief, in its ‘natural’ excess, alter idem. These poems are not affirmative pabulum, but songs from the midlands of mid-life, trawled from the tears of things. In ‘Autumn Leaves,’ the speaker addresses a late husband, reporting ...

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