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Serengeti Songs

Chris McCully

Serengeti Songs
RRP: GBP 10.39
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eBook (EPUB)
ISBN: 978 1 784102 53 1
Categories: 21st Century, African
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Published: March 2016
80 pages (print version)
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Also available in: Paperback, eBook (Kindle)
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  • Reviews
  • ‘McCully gets the life of words, their swing and weight, resonance and cadence. The poems spark with great lines and phrases...’
    Literary Review

    These are the plains.
    The distance is made from ash and rains:
    jacinth, amber and beryl blew apart,
    time lay on the rubble of burning lakes
    and where heat walked up the edge of slopes
    roots probed cracks in the crust ...


    In Serengeti Songs Chris McCully plays poet-guide on a safari through East Africa’s abundant wild landscape. Dik-dik, topi, elephant and impala roam these pages, darting between the acacia’s ‘burnt star-dome’ and the baobab’s myth-rich shade. The poems conjure a Serengeti both glorious and savage, its light ‘stained with blood’, its marshlands steeped in ‘murderous silence’. But McCully’s writing is formally playful and diverse, the collection a safari in itself; accompanying photographs and taxonomic endnotes riff on the guidebook form. The poems also play with gazes: they inspect not only wildlife but also the human need to inspect. Wealthy interlopers demand to see the lions ‘do what they do on TV’, yet ‘know nothing of how the river-pool devours starlight’. The collection’s post-colonial alertness, however, does not compromise the core of wonder hinted at by its title: McCully’s songs are awe-struck celebrations of a unique and delicate landscape. They are, too, protest songs, swansongs: they bear witness, even at their most rhapsodic, to the threat of extinction resulting from human zeal. ‘How many dawns have the great herds run the rim of the world?’ he asks. These poems engage with the Serengeti’s complex symbolism, an emblem both of bounty and scarcity, wonder and loss.
    Chris McCully, born in Bradford, Yorkshire in 1958, worked as a full-time academic, specialising in the history of the English language and on English sound-structure as well as on verse and verse-form, at the University of Manchester (1985–2003). From 2003–13 he worked part-time at various universities in the Netherlands (Vrije ... read more
     'McCully gets the life of words, their swing and weight, resonance and cadence. The poems spark with great lines and phrases...'
    Literary Review
     'This is a singular collection from a singular voice in English poetry, and I highly commend it.'
    Phillip Quinlan, Angle
    Praise for Chris McCully 'This is a commendable and exhilarating book, McCully admirably bringing to life the world of honour, weirdness and creatures beyond our ken.' 

    Anthony Clay, Chase  

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