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Poems and Masks
RRP: GBP 10.39
Available This title is available for academic inspection (paperback only).
ISBN: 978 1 784105 39 6
Categories: 21st Century, British, First Collections
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Published: February 2018
88 pages (print version)
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Also available in: Paperback, eBook (Kindle), eBook (PDF)
Digital access available through Exact Editions
Ned Denny’s Unearthly Toys are treacherous playthings, as rigorously structured as they are thematically unsettling, a ‘rhapsody of rags gathered from several dung-hills, excrements of authors, toys and fopperies confusedly tumbled about’ (as Robert Burton dubbed his Anatomy of Melancholy).
The collection opens on a twilit, numinous world of exotic drugs, subterranean drums and visionary apprehension in which – to quote Twin Peaks, a recurrent leitmotif – ‘the woods are wondrous … but strange’. Interspersed with original poems in a variety of complex forms is a series of illuminated and darkly erotic ‘remakes’ of other poets’ work, from the Old English classic The Wanderer to late Baudelaire via Goethe, Cavalcanti, Li Po, enigmatic troubadour lyrics, and the medieval abbess Hildegard von Bingen. Politics are never far away: modern man’s severance from the earth, the sacred, and his own inner self has grave consequences.
'Ned Denny is a gifted troubadour who has crossed the ages. Unearthly Toys is formidably learned and formally exacting, but his versions are vividly imaginative and original. This is a book of great beauty and conceptual power: extremely clever but also haunting, proving again that formal requirements such as sestinas can be as much of a liberation as a constraint.'
'An earthly joy and a staggering debut... at times truly startling'
Andrew McNeillie, Clutag Press/Archipelago 'As among the most inventive translators of Dante - watch this space - Denny as a poet goes to Hell and back time after time, with immense verve and authority.'
New Italian Studies
'See, for a long time - since I reached these far-away shores, some thirteen years ago - I have been looking for a book of poems. A book of poems. One book of poems that had 'great beauty and conceptual power'. The quest and the drought are finally over. The spell was broken by a book that arrived yesterday, bringing Unearthly Toys down under. Ned Denny's poems are magnificent and so are his versions. This book is a blessing... that Catullus as opener, the Cavalcanti, Cloud... and what about the mesmerizing Waking? But for now I'll pick Fir. It is a powerful book precisely because it originates in the 'thickest of thickets', where truth is to be found and offered - and found it he has, and offered it he has, so gracefully, lightly (as in Calvino's definition of lightness) and truthfully... truthful to himself and to the things and the poems themselves.'
Marco Sonzogni, Senior Lecturer in Italian, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
'Ned Denny's is an interesting and destabilising read. It is a charming yet, at times, dark inspection of life where each consecutive poem builds upon the themes that have already been introduced, and adds to the diversity of techniques and form ... Denny provides a somewhat indirect commentary on the darker aspects of our lives and thoughts, drugs, death, love, and more. Yet, at no point does he display a sense of apathy or hopelessness amidst the grim demeanour.'
James Mork, Dundee University Review of the Arts
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