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The District Commissioner's Dreams
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (96 pages)
(Pub. Sep 2002)
A Walk After Dark
Like phrases in novels I once underlined,
These are the moments that stick in the mind:
An undiplomatic but generous kid
Asked if I wanted to touch it. I did
The District Commissioner's Dreams is an integrated collection in which Gregory Woods returns to the themes of obsession, possession and violence. In its explorations of masculinity, the opening section draws on struggles for power in ancient and more recent history. These poems dissect men's vanities and desires in ways which expose the personal facets of heroism and atrocity. In the pivotal central section, Woods returns to a colonial childhood and the roots of his own development as a writer. The third section then combines personal reminiscences with a sceptical re-examination of sexual liberation.
'Woods' tonal range allows him to employ a number of different voices in a variety of forms: sequences of mythology appear side by side with lyrics of terse couplets. This is poetry with a decided edge.'
Michael Thomas, Other Poetry (Summer 2003) 'In poetry, I was very impressed by the technical resourcefulness and emotional range of Gregory Woods's The District Commissioner's Dreams.;
Adam Mars-Jones, Observer Books of the Year 2002
'By turns witty and coolly ironic, authoritative, sensuous and impassioned. The District Commissioner's Dreams marks an already accomplished poet varying his voice and extending his thematic range. As reviewers say: I urge you to buy it. Prepare to be impressed.'
Robert Hamberger, County Lit (Winter 2002-03) Praise for Gregory Woods 'This is one of my favourite poetry books of 2021. It surprises, moves and charms the pants off you all at the same time, due to its totally fresh style and vision. Its freshness echoes with the sounds and sensualities of Cavafy, Whitman, Gunn, even D.H.Lawrence perhaps. It is full of dogs (or rather one dog, a very characterful she-dog...) and loneliness, but also with the urgency of desire and sex...This is a collection that I will be dipping into, pondering, enjoying, and learning from, for a very long time to come.'
Chris Beckett, London Grip
'One of the best poetry books of the year.'
Ira Lightman, Twitter
'His new collection is one of the most moving, formally dexterous, insistent, consistent collections I've read in many years. Buy it. You'll be glad you did.'
Rory Waterman, Twitter
'Woods's conjurations are elliptical, smokily atmospheric; cinematic if one takes Resnais, Robbe-Grillet and perhaps Costa-Gavras as one's touchstone... His confidence in obscuring the sequence's chronology is to be applauded. He trusts the reader not only to recognise the interconnections and echoes and reverberations, but to appreciate that the isolation of minutiae - the Edward Hopper-like capture of single but intensely weighted moments - is vastly more important than the linear presentation of a series of scenes or episodes... a cityscape and mindscape unique in contemporary British poetry.'
Neil Fulwood, The High Window
'It is a feat to describe a world so brimming over with dissatisfaction and disappointment with such precision. But of course, Gregory Woods, a poet with an engineer's eye for angles and plans, the economical lyricist and master of understatement, pulls it off as a coherent narrative whole from a collection of fractures, without a wasted word, nor sentiment.'
Matt Nunn, Everybody's Reviewing
'There is such authority in Woods' poems: the lyrical resignation of his rhythms, the music of experience in his voice, as in his repeated lines of longing: 'It was as if all sounds/and smells were smells and sounds/of you.' No word is out of place: a beautiful atmosphere is created from the mysterious streets, colonnades and rooms of each poem. There's restrained suffering in these pages, tempered by eroticism, wry wisdom, sly humour at his own and the world's foibles, alongside rich and varied technical skills... His investigation of solitude and examination of time include an impressive expertise in capturing the moment... Gregory Woods is an underestimated master at work, and Records of an Incitement to Silence, his sixth collection, shows him at the pinnacle of his craft.'
'To make comical history as serious as it is absurd in two sequences - 'The Newstead Fandango', where the story of Lord Byron is filtered through Ulysses's home run, and 'Sir Osbert's Complaint', which puts the Sitwell family in the pillory while retaining sympathy for Osbert's lonely end - this could only be Gregory Woods in action, the poet with the sharpest technique for social verse in Britain today. He lets off fireworks through the official groves of English literature.'
'In this, his fourth, volume, Woods's dramatic range and technical ambition are greater than ever... His poetry has never been more alive.''The poems of Gregory Woods have never failed to impress me. When a book like Quidnunc, his fourth collection from Carcanet, makes its appearance, it makes me seriously wonder what the selectors and pre-selectors for prestigious awards are up to. Why isn''t Gregory Woods's name up there? For a start there are few poets around who can rival him technically... Not only does he impress with his gift for sustaining poems over some length, he can dazzle with spectacular rhyming...This is a solid and hugely readable collection with many more things to admire than just the technical accomplishments. Woods is a poet whose thinking is razor-sharp, his wit highly inventive, his sense of history acute, his narratives finely sculpted, his feelings deeply sourced.'
Giuseppe Albano, Chroma
Matt Simpson, Stride
'This new collection, his fourth, is his best so far, which, given how accomplished were the previous three, I intend as high praise... Woods is, indeed, a quite astonishingly gifted formalist. You feel that there's no kind of verse he couldn't use, adapt, subvert, play games with 'The Newstead Fandango' and ' Sir Osbert's Complaint' alone ought to be enough to have won Quidnunc any poetry prize going. And there are other poems equally deserving of note in this brilliantly assured collection. In fact, there's almost nothing that falls below the level of good, and several poems that are quite simply outstanding... When I think of the dross that is regularly published, noticed, praised, rewarded, and then consider that for the most part Woods goes without recognition, I'm not so much aghast as enraged at the (still largely London) cabal that decides poetic worth in England.''Considering it's written by an academic, the subjects dealt with are easily fathomable and will have any gay man smiling or crying with recognition ... A swift enjoyable read that lingers in the mind.'
John Lucas, Staple (Summer/Autumn 2008)
Michael Laycock, The Pink Paper (13/11/98) 'Combines assurance of language with a range of erotic adventures. The writing is often witty in its precision, even while encapsulating a bold, and somewhat edgy, range of sexual scenarios.'
Alan Sinfield, Gay Times Books of the Year 1998 (12/98) 'Endlessly quotable - pithy, often epigrammatic and written with such cool control of form and irony that it chills the very passions it arouses... Woods' poetry is smart in every sense of the word: intelligent, stylish and stinging.'
Peter Klappert, Lambda Book Report (04/99) 'Gregory Woods' poetry is very good indeed... formidable technical panache... extraordinarily skilful with rhyme... 'This Bird, That' perhaps recalls Auden, but it has an intellectual sinuousness and formal dexterity that the master would surely have admired.'
John Lucas, The Dark Horse (Winter 2001-02) 'There is much to be admired and enjoyed in We Have the Melon... this is a book full of humour, horniness of a very innocent kind, and great tenderness... A promising start.'
James Kirkup, PN Review (03/93)
'Aware that erotically charged content may be best balanced by a coolly unemphatic form, Woods has come up with a luminous, suspended line... The result is a liberating discipline: wonder distilled and concentrated by containment... Woods has the knack of seeming constantly delighted by his experiences though not in the least deluded by them... The overwhelming impression of We Have the Melon remains that of frankly sexual joyousness matched by serious literary intelligence, a rare combination and a reassuring one.''Woods restores all the meanings of gay, mental and physical, has a fine sense of place and an engaging wit... It's the poems' honesty that stays in the mind, anchoring their flamboyant sensuality in a real time and place.'
Neil Powell, Times Literary Supplement (16/10/92)
William Scammell, Independent on Sunday (09/09/92) 'The poems of Gregory Woods fall into a Latinate tradition of poetry with a subject matter which might be described as pagan. They remind me often of the work of the Italian poet Sandro Penna... The subject matter may seem raw but in economy and beauty of expression they have a kind of purity... I have read Gregory Woods' poems with real excitement.'
Sir Stephen Spender
'I'm not sure that I had ever written a fan letter before to a poet I had not met, but that's what I did when I read two poems by Gregory Woods, 'Fall' and 'Silence', in a magazine. I admired them especially for their technical virtuosity, in that it was technique completely used, never for the sake of cleverness but as a component of feeling. In the sixty-line 'Fall' the rimes riches have a strangely bruising effect, which accumulates to a sadness which is difficult to bear. 'Silence' consists of two short related poems, somewhere between epigram and song, like Elizabethan poetry but in terms completely of the 1990s. I cannot praise it too highly... At last, a good book of good poetry which takes as its subject a frank and unsentimental homosexuality. The triumph is in the numerous poems in tercets. Taken together, they constitute a handbook of desire; separately, each is an exquisite insight, rapid and rich. The predominant tone is of a kind of delighted astonishment that mere sensuality can be so meaningful ... What an enviable talent Gregory Woods has. I recommend this book to everybody.'
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