The Noise of a Fly
The first book for 16 years from a giant of the poetry stage – now in paperback.
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Shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry
The Noise of a Fly is the first collection from Douglas Dunn in sixteen years, and the first since he was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2013. It is a book brimming with warmth, mischief and a self-deprecating humour, as well as with a charming, ‘Larkinesque’ crankiness: a quarrel with ageing, an impatience with youth, the grievousness of losing friends and colleagues. But for all its intimate, hearthside rumination, this is a volume of poems that looks outward in equal measure: at Scottish independence, British politics and an international refugee crisis, and reflects unflinchingly on what it is to consider oneself a contributor to society. Penned with a dexterous wit and a steady nerve, The Noise of a Fly is a mesmeric imagining of our later years by one of this country’s most senior and celebrated writers.
‘It is hard to think of many poets who can equal his combination of imaginative ambition, formal resource and range of tone . . . Written on these terms, poetry is a matter of permanent urgency.’ Sean O’Brien
‘The most respected Scottish poet of his generation.’ Nicholas Wroe
The Noise of a Fly may look slim but it is intensely rich.
A splendidly choreographed collection… Dunn is a kind commentator and an equally compassionate observer … The book closes in quiet celebration. A place where Dunn can hear “an oatcake crumble” and withdraw within: “A domestic symphony,/A solitude sufficiently robust/To encourage mumbles of wonder.” His mumbles are marvellous.
Although the opening poem, “Idleness”, a beautiful little quatrain, suggests a book of nostalgia and obituary (“The sigh of an exhausted garden-ghost / A poem trapped in an empty fountain pen”), what is more significant is the constant keeks of mischievous humour … The huge virtuoso piece in the collection is a long and intricate piece, “English (a Scottish essay)” which must be one of the most significant works to emerge from the debates about nationality and nationalism after the 2014 referendum.
‘And cruising the internet’s labyrinthine paths I lit on the discreet Douglas Dunn, whose New Selected Poems I read cover to cover before ordering The Noise of a Fly (Faber). Such scrupulous thoughts, whether they be essaying thoughts or keeping the bloom on a Chardinesque bowl of “Ripe Bananas”'
“Gave yet another lecture. God I’m boring...Dear God, it’s true, I’m just an ancient bore,” complains the Scottish writer Douglas Dunn in the aptly titled Thursday. Old poets love to play the curmudgeon. The loveliest poems in The Noise of a Fly, his first collection for 16 years, are about garden minutiae - but Dunn is no bore. The book is distinguished by its preternaturally attentive lyricism; in the opening poem, Idleness, for example, he hears “the flap of a butterfly. / The unfolding wing of a resting wren.”
‘Dunn has a gift for rhyme and assonance that recollects WH Auden’