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Monthly Carcanet Books

This review is taken from PN Review 187, Volume 35 Number 5, May - June 2009.

CHRISTOPHER MIDDLETON, Collected Poems (Carcanet) £25
At last! The weather clears and you see the whole range at once as it stretches from Anatolia through Provence to Old Mexico, with the same goats browsing at either end and a suspicion that, if he had headed East instead of West, Christopher Middleton would have come to the same place, crossing the ancient land bridge with the help of some shaman.

Getting there and away: if you have only a short time in the area you might start around page 100 and compile a personal playlist that would probably have a strong geographical stamp (although, if you are fond of animals, there are more cats and owls here than in Harry Potter). You might notice a progression from the rather easy elegiac

… It bears comparison
with a bunch of grapes on a plate on the table
    in a whitewashed room among wrinkled olive boughs
where the sun beats, and it is not yet time
    to be gone from that place.

to the here and now

This peak infuriating the winds
this valley fluting down the foothills
these crabby oaks and soon apple trees and blue grapes
                                                              (‘Petrarch’s Country’)

to a place where time stops on the moment, often with a lightness and laughter not usually associated with lyric balance - ‘Hotel Asia Minor’ being one example. And on from there to festive treatment of what, in lesser ...

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