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In their formal grace and charge, Jacob's poems are uniquely alive to the possibilities of their subjects - the sea, the land, the home, the very brink of things, where their identities are both sharpest and most unstable.
This debut collection gives readers their first chance to see Polley's transforming imagination in action, where a jar of honey becomes '...the sun, all flesh and no bones/but for the floating knuckle/of honeycomb/attesting to the nature of the struggle'
'Jacob Polley is from Carlisle. He worked as poet in residence on the Cumberland News. In recent years his poems have been receiving national attention and one poem won the BBC Radio 4 First Verse Award. This is his first book of poems. It is only 42 pages long and there are only twenty-nine poems. However, this slim volume of verse proves that he is a real poet, someone with a distinctive voice and a rare gift for language.
Jacob looks at the world around him. His poetry is about familiar experiences but each experience is transformed. Turning a jar of honey in his hand he sees the stunned glow of the sun, but the honeycomb is a floating knuckle "attesting to the nature of the struggle".
In another poem, "Smoke" he imagines his father climbing down the icy stairs and raking and emptying the ashes, and then when "smoke unrolled, flames spread" he slung on a book: "his diaries, / year by year, / purred as their pages burned". Later, after he was born, his father broke "the charred crossbeam of a bird from the flue" and he is left in awe of his father, seeing himself as the unborn baby trapped like the bird in the flue, seeing the light when his mother sang or spoke. The picture of the father and his burning of the diaries is sharp, clear and intense, and then in the last two verses, with brilliantly interwoven metaphors, Jacob is able to show the relation of child to mother and father in all its complexity.
In "Salmonary" he eats a fish with his friend, but the delicately grilled salmon, laid open on the plate, is like a book, his book, to be eaten slowly, thoughtfully. The friend is handed the fish knife and fork and asked to begin to eat the fish that has swam the ocean and swam against the rivers current.
In "The Kingdom of Sediment" Jacobs descriptions are as sharp as childhood. He recalls playing by a stream, balancing on a floating door until it tilted and he was pitched into the kingdom of sediment, the overheard world behind the adult door. He finds that "he was led and drowned" and had entered a world of overflow pipes and bubbles that were "flawless pearls of breath".
Other poems are love poems. In "Attic" he suggests "Let the day go to waste in this little room". In "The Snag" he says to "my love, my rhythm, my rest", that he cannot "snag this night / in these lines, faster than the east / ties the dark off with that pink knot".
And other poems are simply funny like the man looking for commiseration from his wife as he waits outside the chip shop with his fishing rod. In "The North-South Divide" he imagines Scotland rising out of the Atlantic as East Anglia sinks, barnacles grow on Midland chimneys, Stratford is swanless and whales sing in St. Pauls.
Jacob Polley has a rich and complex poetic personality. These poems will make you see things in a new way, whether its the "dreadlocked sheep" standing in the snowbound fields or the "ruthlessness of umbrellas". They ask you to look at the familiar world through fresh eyes, and to see a world that can be very strange, disturbing and beautiful.
"The Brink" takes us over that edge between the ordinary and the extra-ordinary.
This book may be slight but it offers far more hours of thought and pleasure than many far weightier books.' - Steve Matthews, Bookcase.
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