Book Review: Well Versed in Emotion; Keith Brace Reviews Some Recent Poetry Publications

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Byline: Keith Brace

'Slim' and not so slim volumes of poetry/verse continue to pour from those publishers who still care about it. Does this represent a lively public interest, as some arts commentators claim, pointing to the wide public response to 'public' spoken verse at festivals, in schools, etc?

Or is it a last, desperate outpouring before poetry - Britain's greatest claim to unique artistic creativity - disappears into history.

Certainly, they are difficult to review. A whole life's experience (well, a life so far as it has reached) may be packed into a single volume. Logically, novels should be reviewed briefly and poetry collections at studied length. But that doesn't happen.

Then, some collections have a distinct voice overall, while others, interesting enough, may be just so many unlinked poems.

There is a growingly distinct voice in Simon Armitage's Selected Poems' (Faber paperback pounds 9.99). He was the 'bright young poet' of the late 80s and early 90s, like Brian Patten before him, and to us oldies, like Dom Moraes before that. (Dom who?)

Armitage is North Country, tough, ingenious, a master of metres and words, slangy - and already a bit out of date? Tony Harrison is the master in that field. …