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This review is taken from PN Review 220, Volume 41 Number 2, November - December 2014.

Vital World maurice riordan, The Water Stealer (Faber and Faber) £12.99

From ‘The Lull’ at its opening – where the deftly controlled syntax generates a measured whirlwind, and every word bristles with the expectation of whatever is poised to answer the stillness at the centre – to the unpunctuated, uncanny monologue ‘The Face’ which ushers the collection to a thrilling close, the poetry in The Water Stealer storms, rattles and glitters on the pages, as Maurice Riordan channels the unmistakable natural energy he finds in the language of real people and things.

Sometimes it’s dream-language, with its ‘full coherence’, and the images and sentences come tumbling out, recreating the speaker’s confusion, while adhering firmly to its own special logic and structure: as in ‘The Age of Steam’,

where I’m young again, alone, home for holidays
or about to fly to Canada – running this time
for the plane (the airport’s in the farm next to ours)
while carrying a shorn Christmas tree and worried
will I be allowed to board, when I wake … then drift
to a house I’ve lived in years it seems, […]

only to wake again, properly, to ‘a dawn / of dampened sun […], and in my chest / the hissing thumping piston – 14 years on – of grief’. Sharing his dream-complex in a number of poems, Riordan lets us in on a vital world we wouldn’t otherwise know, and the experience excites because it’s all so close – as though it’s unfolding for reader and poet simultaneously. This sense of ...


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