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This review is taken from PN Review 222, Volume 41 Number 4, March - April 2015.

Between rachael allen, Faber New Poets 9 (Faber) £5.00
will burns, Faber New Poets 10 (Faber) £5.00
zaffar kunial, Faber New Poets 11 (Faber) £5.00
declan ryan, Faber New Poets 12 (Faber) £5.00

In 2010, I was privileged to review the first crop of Faber New Poets. In the years between, I have reflected on the scheme. It seems ideal for a writer who can follow a promising pamphlet promptly with a full collection. My only reservation is that some of the most interesting talents burn slowly. But Faber’s pamphlets have already launched some very good work into print.

This now includes the quiet, intriguing and profound poems of Zaffar Kunial. These are starred with tiny, exquisite phrases. Kunial reflects on Wordsworth’s description of skating: ‘reflex. Fitting the foot’. But pun and poem skate ‘deep space’. Rhymes are ropes thrown, beautifully, over a gap: ‘they carry / the gravities of home. Worlds I can’t marry’.

Kunial writes hauntingly of the difference between languages, noting in his father’s English: ‘That definite article […] between enjoy and life’. His prize-winning ‘Hill Speak’, which considers ‘my father’s language’, ends with humour, but near-desperation:

And either way, even at the rare moment I get towards –

or, thank God, even getting to –
my point, I can’t put into words
where I’ve arrived.

Occasionally, a poem’s final line feels wrenched into shape. But many are light-footed as their rhymes: ‘At home in Grasmere – / thin mountain paths have me back, / a boy in Kashmir’. Some are strangely vast, as a butterfly ‘flaps storms to Palomar’. With an impressive clutch of techniques, Kunial is a fine teller of stories. His endings may be movingly direct: ‘we ...


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