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The Gifts of Fortune
Categories: 21st Century, British, Irish
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (98 pages)
(Pub. May 2020)
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(Pub. May 2020)
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The poems in The Gifts of Fortune, Peter McDonald's seventh book of poems, cover a spectrum of personal history. They go to Belfast, Oxford, and further afield; in time they visit the poet's pasts, his now, his possible futures. Autobiographical detail abounds: McDonald's experiences (as a workingclass boy in Belfast, who dreams of leaving, and a middleaged Oxford don, who dreams of going back) are filtered through a deep instinct for poetic tradition. At the heart of the book are two sequences: one, 'Mud', in which family, professional, and literary histories are combined in strictly formal, but personally unguarded, reflections on poetry, class, and privilege; and another, 'Blindness', where a series of tenline units test poetic form to (and beyond) breaking-point, in a meditation on family and suffering, disappointment and hope. Other poems return to themes of wealth and poverty, love and loss, and the alienation and puzzlement of age. Throughout the book, form is ghosted by the formless, hovering just beyond the frame; and Fortune vies with Fate, quite another force.
Awards won by Peter McDonald Short-listed, 2017 London Hellenic Prize (The Homeric Hymns)
Praise for Peter McDonald 'McDonald is often impressively adept at using varied metres for cadence, musicality, tension. He resists the over-dramatic, but is a poet of fierce feeling - moved and often moving.'
TLS 'Peter McDonald's unsettling imagination occupies a middle distance between domesticity and wilderness - what he calls 'the melancholy distance'. His fine elegies and love poems have in common a cool intonation and an argumentative persistence: the overlap is a telling one. McDonald's disenchanted vision makes the moments of intimacy and tenderness, when they come, all the more affecting. In addition, his profound literary intelligence thrives on metrical and stanzaic challenge, and ranges with relish from gnomic brevity to sustained meditation, narrative and memoir. These poems, which with their gently syncopated lines may seem understated, register the uneasiness and the excitement of 'the buzzing world': they are, in the poet's own words, 'back roads to everywhere'.
Michael Longley 'Hugely impressive... not just rich but endlessly varied and subtle... marvellous.'
David Wheatley, Irish Times 'Peter McDonald's unsettling imagination occupies a middle distance between domesticity and wilderness... [his] disenchanted vision makes the moments of intimacy and tenderness, when they come, all the more affecting.'
Michael Longley, CBE 'McDonald's work 'is entirely in keeping with Milton's enjoinder that poetry be "simple, sensuous and passionate". His musicality is not just rich but endlessly varied and subtle. [...] It embodies the values of accuracy, conscience, and restraint but with no skimping of intensity or ferocity.'
David Wheatley, Irish Times
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