PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
News and Notes
PNR266 Now Available
The latest issue of PN Review is now available to read online. read more
Most Read... 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)
M. Wynn ThomasThe Other Side of the Hedge
(PN Review 239)
Jamie OsbornIn conversation with Sasha Dugdale
(PN Review 240)
Drew MilneTom Raworth’s Writing ‘present past improved’: Tom Raworth’s Writing
(PN Review 236)
Next Issue Stav Poleg Running Between Languages Jeffrey Meyers on Mr W.H. (Auden) Miles Burrows The Critic as Cleaning Lady Timothy Ades translates Brecht, Karen Leeder translates Ulrike Almut Sandig
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
PN Review New Issue

This article is taken from PN Review 252, Volume 46 Number 4, March - April 2020.

Pictures from the Rylands Library
49. Worn Worlds: The Poetry of Adam Johnson’s Baby Shoes
Stella Halkyard
Baby Shoes: Not for Sale. Worn Many Times. The original blue of their early 1960s hue has faded to grey and ‘the constancy of [a] human presence permeates every surface’ (Neruda). Shoes, as Derrida observes, ‘both shape and are shaped by the body; they take in oils and the smells of the body’ and yet shoes ‘have a life of their own; they are material presences and they encode other material and immaterial presences… and can transform identities’ (Peter Stallybrass). Through use, clothing becomes ‘singularised [and] bears the stamp of the individuality and everyday experience of its owner’ (Sheila Harpur). In receiving the imprint of a human being, albeit at an embryonic stage in its life cycle (as in the case here), we see how a mass produced commodity can be transformed into vibrant matter, and radiate ‘a magnetism that should not be scorned [for] this is the poetry we are seeking’ (Neruda).

Baby shoes, c.1963, Adam Johnson Papers AJP/6/1

Neruda’s ‘poetry of the worn and permeated surface’ was not a subject lost on Adam Johnson, one of the most promising poets of his generation, who became the author of a series of critically acclaimed collections of poetry, including: Poems (1992), The Spiral Staircase (1993), The Playground Bell (1994) and Collected Poems (2003). Reputedly a snappy dresser, he often favoured ‘white suits and bow ties he never learnt to tie’, as shown in the photo here. His ‘high-cheeked, matinée-idol good looks were well known on the poetry circuit’ (Hugh David). He ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image