Poetry drysalter omnivore review

Published on January 9th, 2014


Drysalter by Michael Symmons Roberts

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Blurb: Michael Symmons Roberts’ sixth – and most ambitious collection to date – takes its name from the ancient trade in powders, chemicals, salts and dyes, paints and cures. These poems offer a similarly potent and sensory multiplicity, unified through the formal constraint of 150 poems of 15 lines. (Jonathan Cape, April 2014)

Kate Kellaway, The Guardian

This is his most ambitious collection to date: it contains 150 poems – each one 15 lines long. One could dub the form a super-sonnet, an experimental pushing at boundaries. He is quoted as saying he found the poems “terrifying” to write. And this is interesting because they could not feel less risky to read: there is a sense of sanctuary, beauty – safe harbour about them. They belong together, call out to one another, it is harmony that defines this marvellous work.

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Adam Newey, The Observer

“Each poem in this substantial collection is just 15 lines long (though they are divided up in different ways), as if the poet were following a sort of spiritual rule to sharpen the senses through variant repetition. If the writing on occasion feels a little over-designed – the move from “prey” to ”pray”, for instance, in “Through a Glass Darkly” – there is plenty of excellent stuff that more than compensates. The same poem’s invocation of the “flaked face of brick/ frostbitten, verdigris and icicles on statues. A world drawn tight” has a calm, poised precision to it that is typical of Symmons Roberts’s best writing.”

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Sameer Rahim, The Telegraph

“This collection is baggy in places and the language not always as sharp as one would hope. None the less there are a few gems. In “Excise Me” a speaker imagines cutting out his own painful beating heart: “Cupped in my hands / like a half-caught bird, it cools and stills.” Here expression and emotion are united precisely.”

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