Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
John McAuliffeBill Manhire in Conversation with John McAuliffe
(PN Review 259)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Patricia CraigVal Warner: A Reminiscence
(PN Review 259)
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 Gwyneth Lewis ‘Spiderings’ Ian Thomson ‘Fires were started: Tallinn, 1944’ Adrian May ‘Traditionalism and Tradition’ Judith Herzberg ‘Poems’ translated by Margitt Helbert Horatio Morpurgo ‘What is a Book?’
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PN Review 276
PN Review Substack

This review is taken from PN Review 266, Volume 48 Number 6, July - August 2022.

Cover of The Problem of the Many
Ian PopleTimothy Donnelly, The Problem of the Many (Picador) £10.99
Timothy Donnelly’s first major book, The Cloud Corporation was greeted with real acclaim; feted by John Ashbery, no less, as ‘the poetry of the future, here, today’. So, The Problem of the Many has a lot to live up to. And the blurb of this edition pushes that ‘lot’ even further.  It draws the reader’s attention to the title of the book which relates to ‘the famous philosophical quandary as to what defines the larger aggregate – a cloud, a crowd – which Donnelly extends to address the subject of individual boundary, identity and belonging’. No lack of ambition there, then.  

The build of the poems lacks no ambition either. As in The Cloud Corporation, the poems usually run in long lines and long sentences across the page. So, even though the architecture of lines and line breaks often seems very carefully orchestrated, Donnelly’s voice is, by and large, expansive and loping. There are shorter poems in both books, and shorter poems with shorter lines, but that voice is carefully maintained no matter the ‘form’ of the poem itself. That form also has a trajectory that line lengthsa and stanza lengths hold with tension and intensity.  

If the title of the collection sounds a note of ambition, then the poems inside the covers do not relax that ambition. The first poem is called ‘What Is Real’, and other poems announce an equal reach: ‘The Earth Itself’, ‘The Death of Print Culture’, ‘Leviathan’, and the final poem in the book, ‘Hymn to Life’. That first poem, ‘What Is ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image