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Soft Sift is Mark Ford’s first collection since the widely praised Landlocked was published in 1992. Barbara Everett has remarked of his recent work: ‘Mark Ford’s poems are so cool that it’s mystifying they aren’t cold. But they aren’t: they are friendly, touching and very funny. His work exhibits an enormous casual elegance of mind and style, producing work that is witty without pose, refined and subtle without evasiveness.’
There are curved stories here, intrigues and quests whose exuberance of plot and sense of quizzical or farcical immersion in the world of appearances is rendered with a light tough and a sure command of tone, staging the conflict between the mind’s drift and the ‘inflexible etiquette’ of form (Gerard Manley Hopkins’s ‘soft sift / In an hourglass’). The making of these condensed dramas is often the unmaking of the person speaking, whose ‘frets and fresh starts’ reveal an original sensibility concerned not with self-display but with a general comedy of wrong moves. Mark Ford has been compared to an American Philip Larkin, or an English John Ashbery, but his poetry is in fact, as John Bayley has remarked ‘wholly sui generis‘.
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