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That Stranger, the Blues
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (96 pages)
(Pub. Jul 1996)
When I was beginning to think the game was up,
So late in the day, to distil from anxieties
Something more accountable than dreams
To allay the rational fear of losing ground.
And courage wasn't called for, after all.
It is the one you dream about that counts.
This morning it was like breathing underwater.
In That Stranger, The Blues, James Keery's first book of poems, there is an extraordinary fusion between a poetry of landscapes, indebted to Edward Thomas and Robert Frost, and the radical strategies of the poets of the New York and Cambridge schools. Understated, like watercolours in an age of gaudy acrylics, his lyric poems and his longer 'narratives' explore language and their subjects with passionate fidelity. Limiting himself to the verifiable and perceptible, his poems grow resonant with unaggressive clarities.
As a critic, Keery is a lucid interpreter of writing from various apparently exclusive groups, camps or movements. His poetry is characterised by an equal openness. There is nothing imitative or magpie-ish in his gathering of energy and resource from the work of Michael Haslam, W.S.Graham, Philip Larkin or J.H.Prynne: it is simply that he refuses to subscribe to the general view of unbreachable divisions -- of geography, gender or poetics -- within our culture. Claiming access to the widest poetic territory, he brings an unusual discipline and an unusual freedom into play in his work.
Praise for James Keery
'The sheer range of voices on display in Apocalypse: An Anthology is as thrilling as the poems are at times challenging, even difficult''Apocalypse is a litany of the lost, and offers up various and distinct categories of the poetic undead... [it] redefines modern British poetry with exemplary panache.'
Chris Moss, The Poetry Review
David Wheatley, The Guardian
'The wealth of talent on offer is simply extraordinary... What Keery does show, regardless of labels, is a wealth of almost unknown work - work of such high standard that history books of poetry with their neat categories and vast omissions might need extra chapters that tease out the sheer quantity of good poems, rather than assuming that what has fallen through the cracks of time is best left there.'
David Hackbridge Johnson
'Apocalypse is passionate. It represents a raised pitch and extended conceptual scope, a turn towards biblical and epic tone if only momentarily, and an amplification of address by which words may transcend even an excessive figurative function which remains controlled, such as Surrealism, and appear to violate the dialect itself, momentarily or consistently. There is also a characteristic rhythmic drive, frequently empowering a first-person declaration ... Keery's anthology proposes a spread of ability beyond the relevance of experts or judges, poems which are sent out into the world to fend for themselves, enlivened by attachment to a strong history.This anthology must have taken an immense amount of dedicated work; in fact I can't imagine how he managed to uncover so many worthwhile poems hidden away in forgotten poetry magazines and old small-press books. The history of British poetry in the twentieth century will never be the same again.'
Peter Riley, Fortnightly Review
'It's incredible. Right into my favourite anthologies of all time.'
'Can I find fault with this anthology? I tried, but I was overwhelmed - it gives everything you could possibly ask for and travels to places which this reviewer did not know existed... Keery has found poets we didn't even know about... This recovery of the real story of the Forties is a unique achievement, but is also a rehearsal for the even larger project of recovering the whole history of 'alternative' poetry since 1937, and for the first time drawing a map of modern British poetry which is based on information rather than a wish to control the market'
Andrew Duncan, Tears in the Fence
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