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This review is taken from PN Review 159, Volume 31 Number 1, September - October 2004.

SACRED MUSIC NIGEL FORDE, A Map of the Territory (Carcanet) £7.95
JAMES SUTHERLAND-SMITH, In the Country of Birds (Carcanet) £8.95
ADAM SCHWARTZMAN, The Book of Stones (Carcanet) £7.95

At first reading, the form and content of Nigel Forde's latest collection appear to be characterised by an ordered, disciplined expression that engenders little sense of excitement. Further reading, however, reveals this to be the poems' very strength. The appeal of Forde's poetry lies in this balance and harmony, in which the form builds up a body of meaning, or feeling, through a steady cadence, an insistence of thought. Like the sacred music that suffuses this volume, the poems have a meditative, calmly contemplative quality, very quietly and very diligently working away at the subtle nuances of life which they record. Remembered landscapes are evoked as transitory, yet permanently ingrained upon the mind, with the empirical and reflective self colouring and giving substance to the moment. The sensuousness of each of these landscapes is elaborated by Forde's austere, subtly ornate flourishes of interpretation as he sees the sacred writing inscribed in the living world around him:

Canons and fugues are fired off
Into the darkness. There's moonlight
In your italics, curlicues: loud metaphors
Scribbled on the envious silence.
                                                                             (`The Nightingale')

The poems recall Wordsworth's `But there in the mountains did he feel his faith, / There did he see the writing'. Although Forde does not use Wordsworth's symphonic, epic scale, his exploration of the same territory is epitomised in the two mainstays of the volume, `A Map of the Territory' and the Hungarian sonnet sequence `Touchstones'.

A ...


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