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The Palace of Oblivion
Categories: 21st Century, First Collections, Scottish
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (80 pages)
(Pub. Apr 2008)
Howling forth my regrets in orchidaceous Latin,
Parching and starving amidst the chambers of marvels,
Mourning in diamonds and tissue of silver, in coloratura of sorrow
I sing my age of gilded iron to rest.
from ‘Recitative and Aria of the Sovereign Lady Melancholia’
Baroque in its extravagance of language, in its delight in the bizarre and the prodigious, Peter Davidson’s collection is a cabinet of curiosities, a world of ruined palaces, ghostly gardens and the fragile marvels of a secret past. It moves between languages and continents, English and Latin, the Spanish Netherlands and Spanish America, the Mediterranean and the north. The title sequence evokes a half-known, half-fantastic, seventeenth century; a shorter sequence transforms contemporary England through the eyes of a spy. The collection ends with a group of elegies and epistles concerned with place and history in northern Scotland. Erudite and witty, The Palace of Oblivion is about remembering and inventing out of memory, and provides haunting visions of decay and splendour.
Cover painting Master of Calamarca, Aziel Timor Dei, arcángel arcabucero, oil on canvas, seventeenth century, Museo Nacional de Arte, Bolivia. Cover design StephenRaw.com.
Praise for Peter Davidson 'Peter Davidson's profoundly civilised and lyrical book is [...] shot through with exquisite poignancies. These have as much to do with the nature of the place - the nature of extreme northerliness - as with the author's finely trained eye. [...] he knows how to see into things, and not only the simply visible, but also the rituals, the inner structures, and music - Lieder and ballad at the piano - of a sequestered, professorial life in rural Aberdeenshire. [...] The stuff and pace of poetry underwrites Prof Davidson's nights and days. He has written a most remarkable book in the same class of accomplishment as the work of Robert Macfarlane, who introduces it.'
Andrew McNeillie, Country Life 'This is a poet's book, his mind wide open to the cultures of the world, especially of the north, specifically Aberdeenshire. The language is luscious, musical and precise, rich with quotation and the cultures of, especially, northern Europe, from minerology and industry to poetry, painting, music [...] The book glows with moments of light, on a city, a river, in a room.'
Gillian Clarke, National Poet of Wales 'Peter Davidson has written a remarkable and unusual book - I have started the book but want to make it last the summer. It is a sustained prose poem, very moving in its effect... I am savouring it, reading it slowly, hoping to prolong the pleasure of these exquisite essays through the summer. It is, I think, one of the most beautiful books to be written in Scotland for many decades.'
Alexander McCall Smith
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