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This review is taken from PN Review 273, Volume 50 Number 1, September - October 2023.

Cover of So Much for Life: Selected Poems</i>, edited by Sam Ladkin and Luke Roberts
Ian SeedA Shape to Be Broken
Mark Hyatt, So Much for Life: Selected Poems, edited by Sam Ladkin and Luke Roberts (Nightboat Books) $19.95
I first came across Mark Hyatt’s poetry in Poetry Review in 1975 in my school library. Peter Riley supplied this note: ‘Mark Hyatt was born in 1940. His poems were just beginning to appear in magazines and anthologies when he died in 1972. He left behind a large amount of unpublished work, from which the poems in this issue are taken; there are plans for a collection of his work, hopefully to be published in 1975.’ The five poems in Poetry Review took me tantalisingly into Hyatt’s world, a world which as a lonely, frustrated adolescent I identified with. There was a sense of boredom and waiting, with an underlying tone of both menace and quiet hope, conveyed in simple, self-deprecatory lyrics:

it’s very hot
butterflies knitting
on tall green plants
the common fly
buzzing in black dashes
in the orange tree
hardly moving
distant sounds murmur […]

there’s a small spider
walking over
        (‘Small Things’)

A Different Mercy, a chapbook of Hyatt’s poems edited by Nigel Wheale and David Trotter, was published in an edition of 250 copies in 1976, but there has been little since then. It seems like some kind of miracle, therefore, that Nightboat Books, almost half a century on, have published a two-hundred page collection, along with Sam Ladkin and Luke Roberts’s illuminating introduction, comprehensive bibliography and painstakingly detailed set of editorial notes.

The introduction sets Mark Hyatt’s poetry within the context of his life. Hyatt was ...

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