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Set Thy Love in Order
New & Selected Poems
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This title is available for academic inspection (paperback only).
ISBN: 978 1 784103 76 7
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Published: June 2017
216 x 135 mm
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Also available in: eBook (PDF), eBook (Kindle), eBook (EPUB)
Set Thy Love in Order: New & Selected Poems gathers the work of some thirty years, taken from Stephen Romer’s four previous collections, along with a substantial selection of new poems. Stephen Romer has been described as ‘one of our finest poets of thwarted or impossible love’ (Adam Thorpe in the Guardian) and the title of this New & Selected is a Dantescan objurgation as old as the Trecento: Ordina qu’est amore, o tu che m’ami – set thy love in order, o thou who lovest me. Romer’s central theme is encapsulated by these words, and his prolonged and painstaking exploration of the ‘intermittences of the heart’, frequently carried out with a Francophile self-consciousness and a rueful wit, constitute so many variations on the theme. Early on, Derek Mahon singled out Romer’s first collection Idols for its ‘emotional candour and intellectual clarity’ and since then the poet has endeavoured to turn the light of the intellect (and the wit) on the frequently chaotic and contradictory material of the heart. Throughout his work, Romer is nervously alive to the voices of the past, especially in the illustrious tradition of the Muse poem, as Adam Phillips noted in The Observer writing of Yellow Studio: ‘Romer is one of our finest contemporary poets because he has made such a distinctive idiom out of such a complicated inheritance.’ What this New & Selected articulates more clearly, is the constant oscillation between love and loss and longing, and the religious desire for ‘refuge’ and ‘higher things’ and how powerfully these can come to rhythm the life of the mind and the emotions. Coleridge described love as ‘a chaos of kind in a continuity of time’ and deplored how his entire being could be ‘abridged to this single inclination’. Romer’s poems frequently visit that territory, but more recent work has included poems of love and mourning for his parents, and elegies for friends, some gone too soon. The high seriousness of Romer’s lyricism is also characterized and tempered by a self-deprecating wit. The British Council Writer’s Directory concludes its entry on Stephen Romer thus: ‘Notwithstanding his sophisticated Francophile masks and semi-detached Englishness—and his philosophical eye on the emotions—Stephen Romer may well be the finest love poet of his generation.’
Praise for Stephen Romer 'Stephen Romer has achieved a breakthrough in these new poems. The death of his father has torn away a veil, releasing a fresh energy and vision.'
Hugo Williams 'If Tribute is haunted by aphasia, exile and the loss of continuity, those fears are shadows that give body to the essences more insistently dwelt upon, and these are apprehended with a depth of spiritual resource that is almost mystical.'
Clive Wilmer on Tribute, in Times Literary Supplement 'Austerely eloquent treatments of lost love and the complexities of family are juxtaposed with reflections on art and poetry - exactly the civilised range of interests that might strike fear into the incurious. Readers open to Romer's scrupulous, passionate music and the conversational intimacy of his address will gather rich rewards, however.'
Sean O'Brien, Culture, 11 January 2009
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