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This review is taken from PN Review 234, Volume 43 Number 4, March - April 2017.

Cover of The Catch
Sue LeighThe brightness between trees
Fiona Sampson, The Catch
(Chatto & Windus, 2016) £10
THE TITLE OF Fiona Sampson’s latest collection, The Catch, comes from an old word for a round song, one that keeps going and that you may join in with, if you wish. Many of the poems in the book are songs – praise songs – for creatures, the land, people, lived moments. They have been inspired by time spent in France, the natural environment and what Sampson herself describes as ‘that most difficult of experiences to evoke, happiness’. It is a tender book, curious, sensuous, full of light.

The Catch represents a real process of searching, of finding new ways of doing and saying things. The poems frequently inhabit marginal places – memory, imagination, dream – encountered at early morning or evening. The book opens with ‘Wake’ where first light is ‘a slim cat/coming home through Top Field’ and closes with a child in bed, the shadows meeting across the grass ‘to swallow time / the light put out/in each grass stalk’. ‘The Border’ describes a night drive in which creatures surface from a deep dream state to reveal themselves on the road – and haven’t you also, asks the speaker, ‘arrived/once again at/astonishment/at the brink of dream?’

The poet invites us to regain the way of looking we had as a child – to hear ‘the wind/along the pavement/wind shaking the hedge and the cherry branches’. Moments of recognition, connection, small epiphanies are celebrated – the sound of doves on waking, wet sheets on a clothesline, an early morning encounter with horses. In ‘Daily Bread’ ...


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