81 Austerities is the dizzying debut collection from Sam Riviere, an exciting new voice on the Faber poetry list.
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All three-dimensional objects can be experienced in two dimensions: it just takes some careful unpicking of the seams. Witty, comic, plaintive, touching, acerbic, droll, cavalier, caffeinated, irreverent, stringent: Austerities, the mind-altering substantial debut from Sam Riviere, seems to achieve the impossible in being all things at once. Initially conceived as a response to the ‘austerity measures’ implemented by the coalition government in 2011, the poems quickly began taking on a life in kind: ‘cutting’ themselves on levels of sentiment, structure and even subject matter. Not content to merely build a series of freethinking poems, these remarkable pieces seem eagerly and mischievously to analyze their moment of creation, then weigh their worth, then consign their excess to the recycling bin thereafter. Experience is speedy, the poems seem to say, so dizzyingly fast that the poetry will inevitably be running to catch up – often arriving at a scene the moment after the moment has gone. The effect is as funny and it is startling, beguiling as it is surprising, and makes Austerities a vivid reminder that deprivation, as Leonard Cohen put it, can be the mother of poetry.
The spectre of the creative writing industry, and its commodification of poetry, looms large. One of the disturbing and brilliant things about Riviere is that he is simultaneously a product of this world and exactly the scabrous heretic it needs.
81 Austerities has a wry, sardonic touch, with, however, an underlying power that signals a gifted new voice.
Tirelessly self-aware, conjuring an uncomfortable tension between actual and virtual communication, this is a quiet and powerful debut.
If you want to know what new things poetry can do, you'll find this an exhilaratingly authentic way to confront the inauthentic, both in ourselves and in society.
A brilliantly modern vision of boredom and deprivation.
A collection that thrives on teasing convention, whether of form, technique or subject matter.
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From the Faber and Arts Council, a breakthrough work from a new poet.