Feelings are mixed in respect of Craig Raine’s latest collection How Snow Falls. Both Paul Batchelor writing in The Times (11th December) and James Kidd in The Independent on Sunday (28th November) are moved by moments of honesty and by Raine’s customary “visual comparisons” but are less impressed with “characteristic busts of sexual frankness that you don’t quite know what to do with” (Kidd) and by his deliberate flouting of good taste which Batchelor calls “the reductive syllogism upon which Raine’s art depends”.
Whilst the overfamiliar style of Don Paterson’s Reading Shakespeare’s Sonnets may not appeal to every reviewer, the book nonetheless receives much praise for Paterson’s fresh approach and arcane insight. Adam O’Riordan, writing in The Telegraph on 14th November, describes the collection as “an entertaining, exuberant and obsessively passionate guide” displaying “a deep knowledge shared at speed”. Hugh Thomson in The Independent on 17th December refers to Paterson as “one of the finest living poets working in the sonnet form” who “brings to this a craftsman's insight and refreshing candour”. For Adam Mars-Jones however, writing in The Observer on 7th November, the various colliding narrative voices detract from the “real insight” to create “an incompatibility of tone [and] of substance”.
Hodge by Oliver Reynolds earns a glowing review from David Wheatley in The Guardian on 6th November. Lauded as “an alternative to the familiar star turns of British poetry today”, Wheatley enjoys a poet “who will never be revealing once when he can be charmingly wispy twice over”. Stephen Knight is also keen on Reynolds’ collection which he includes in his poetry round-up of the year’s “exciting new band of names” in The Independent on Sunday (12th December).
Published to mark the poet’s 90th birthday, Paul Batchelor finds in Edwin Morgan’s Dreams and Other Nightmares: New and Uncollected Poems 1954-2009 a fine and wide-ranging selection of some of Morgan’s lesser known poems, including a few written shortly before his death in August 2010. Writing in The Guardian on 20th November, Batchelor relishes this collection where “every poem feels like a fresh encounter with reality”. Whether enjoying the humour, the “honesty and precision” of his love poems, his “astonishing emotional directness” or “Morgan the great experimenter”, Batchelor commends a book which “still crackles with all the curiosity, wit and playful intelligence that made Morgan such a celebrated and loved poet”.
Finally, The Forward Book of Poetry, which is published each year to showcase the best of the submissions to the annual Forward Prizes for Poetry is reviewed by Boyd Tonkin in The Independent on 19th November. Tonkin heaps praise on this year’s anthology which “makes readers who have backslid on attention to new verse feel in the loop, and up to speed”. No wonder then that this collection has been chosen as one of two with which to launch the PBS’ new Online Poetry Reading Group.