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)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Patricia CraigVal Warner: A Reminiscence
(PN Review 259)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue James K. Baxter, Uncollected Poems Rod Mengham, Last Exit for the Revolution Stav Poleg, The Citadel of the Mind Jena Schmitt, Resting Places: The Writing-Life F Friederike Mayrocker Wayne Hill, Poems
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PN Review 275
PN Review Substack

This review is taken from PN Review 275, Volume 50 Number 3, January - February 2024.

Cover of Taking Liberties
Tara BerginLeontia Flynn, Taking Liberties (Cape), £12; Susannah Dickey, ISDAL (Picador), £10.99
O Thresholds

If the ‘company bosses’ (as Leontia Flynn calls them in her poem ‘All of the people’) had more than an inkling of what poetry was capable of, maybe they’d stop using the word ‘poetic’ to describe their luxury tissues or shades of emulsion paint. If they suspected that ‘poetry’ constituted searing interrogations of their own slapdash behaviour – as exemplified in these two new collections – then they might run a mile from the descriptor. These poets chew their bread, as Paul Celan put it, ‘with writing teeth’: grinding, assessing. Their work is nothing like the floaty vagueness of elegant advertising. It’s built from what W.G. Sebald once described as ‘acute, merciless observation’ and is stark, crafted, funny and real.

I first heard abut Leontia Flynn’s fifth collection, Taking Liberties, on the grapevine. Someone actually said to me outside a pub, ‘have you heard Leontia Flynn’s new poem about her cat? It’s amazing.’ Such gossip speaks not just of Flynn’s importance as a writer, but also of her success in maintaining a sense of newness and
freshness. The poems display a combination of caring deeply and not at all; they are tender and barbed, irritable and longing, all at the same time.

The book itself is pleasantly laid out: a black-and-white photograph by Anton Atanasov on the cover, showing train tracks disappearing into the mist to illustrate the title’s suggestion of freedom, and of ‘stealing’ away. Inside are the epigraphs, the list of contents, and about sixty pages of poems. Sounds normal enough, but the ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image