ANN SANSOM: IN PRAISE OF MEN AND OTHER PEOPLE
ISBN 1 85224 633 2
email Bloodaxe Books
visit the website of Bloodaxe Books
Web design by
This page last updated: 11th December 2007.
|ANN SANSOM: IN PRAISE OF MEN AND OTHER PEOPLE|
IN PRAISE OF MEN AND OTHER PEOPLE is prefaced by two lines from Alexander Pope:
Some praise at morning what they blame at night But always think the last opinion right.An unexpected opening, it neatly suggests the enigmatic nature of many of the poems in this collection, in which a voice can be heard speaking clearly but gradually changing in tone. The voices are many and various, each poem being a kind of mini-drama giving us a brief glimpse into a life or character, sometimes as heard in a single moment, at others reflecting on the past, or on other lives which have touched theirs. To convey so much in comparatively short poems demands a great deal of compression, and a pared down style in which not a word is wasted. I will admit that it took me a while to tune in. It may also be that the initial poems are not quite as arresting as later ones. As read on, I became increasingly impressed by Sansom's achievement, however.
A quotation from BEFORE THE WAKE gives some idea of the direct impact of her opening lines, her ability to set a scene immediately and create a character, complete with tone of voice and situation:
Shutting the door on the priest, And thank you Father, the title coming out so easy, a wonder I don't genuflect as well. In the front room, no one now but you, still sitting by the bed, trying his hand against your own. Still warm, his has the greater span ...There is the same directness in NANCY, a wonderful evocation of a woman frowned on by her daughter-in-law but loved by her grandchildren. The vivid details bring her immediately into vision:
But we liked her, admired the corrugated hair, the pearl-drop earrings, her fingernails a set of tiny pillar-boxes...LINTHWAITE has the same sensual directness, though used to create a very different mood and setting:
More of this bitter Pennine rain, icy and unclean, but today I'm refreshed by it. Walking home from swimming, scoured hands in my pockets ...This sudden leap into a character's speech and situation demands an immediate imaginative response from the reader. There is no introduction, no explanation, but in most of the poems none is needed (though occasionally I was left with the sense that I was missing something). The very ordinariness of the language is arresting, particularly as it is often used to build up extraordinary images or surprising changes of viewpoint. Frequently a narrative develops within the poem, though exact events remain elusive, as in WATER FEATURE and SINCE. One needs to read such poems several times to fully appreciate how much is going on in them.
Other poems I will particularly remember are GEMINI, 2 PARA, PEDIGREE, AT EDIE'S, CROOKS, VEHICLE and FINDING THE FOX. This is a weighty collection, however, and there are too many fine poems for each to be mentioned here. I can recommend it to any reader willing to look closely at a poem and listen for the distinctive voice it conveys.
|reviewer: Pauline Kirk|