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Jamie McKendrick’s sixth collection starts from the far flung (‘out there’ is the nothing – or the something – of outer space), ascertaining the mood of an observer on Uranus, or the perils of medieval travel, or listening for the speech of alien landscapes. Closer to home, the poems adopt an outsiderish stance as they ponder the business of non-belonging and draw up wry inventories of marginality – finding room for those whom history has forgotten (the inhabitants of a drowned valley in Wales) or equally for the outcasts of natural history (the northern bald ibis, the hyena, the moa), whose skeleons are ‘cairns to their own extinction’.
But the poems themselves are vivid and stubbornly realised individuals: they take short views, make canny distinctions and tread carefully. Invoking paintings and artefacts and facades, they also add to an ongoing portrait of the artist – caught for example amidst the patiently-observed flotsam of a repeatedly flooding house -which becomes more finely drawn with each of Jamie McKendrick’s collections.
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