Northern Ireland meets New York in this brave and energetic new collection of poems from Nick Laird – now in paperback.
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SHORTLISTED FOR THE T. S. ELIOT PRIZE 2018
Nick Laird has been an assured and brilliant voice in contemporary poetry since his acclaimed debut, To a Fault, in 2005. Feel Free, his fourth collection, effortlessly spans the Atlantic, combining the acoustic expansiveness of Whitman or Ashbery with the lyricism of Laird’s forebears Heaney, MacNeice and Yeats. With characteristic variety, invention and wit (here are elegies, monologues, formal poems and free verse) the poet explores the sundry patterns of freedom and constraint – the family, the impress of history, the body itself – and how we might transcend them.
Feel Free is always daring, always renewing, and Laird’s most remarkable work to date.
'Throughout this outstanding collection, there is the sense of an elsewhere, at once tantalisingly close and unreachable . . . it reads like a gift . . . the greatest joy of reading this unmissable collection is Laird’s peripheral vision as a poet’
'Laird’s poems, in a variety of ways, fix their sights on constrictions: formal poetry, the finite nature of language, the limitations that inevitably come with parenthood and domesticity, and the inevitability of aging, sickness and death ... Few contemporary poets can make old poetic forms feel natural and lyrical the way Laird can.'
‘If there is music in Laird’s poems, it is the music of rain, of wind, of machinery. He clouds these poems with jargon, creating a kind of pixellation, where meaning is apparent but not clearly defined. Then, with a well-placed volta and a clever turn of phrase, Laird ends with a sense of clarity. I found myself noticing things around me a little more clearly after reading these poems, as if my senses had been retuned … From villanelles to pantoums, Laird’s eye for distinctive imagery and ear for the prosody of everyday speech breathes new life into old forms … Formally, his poems are neat and, at first glance, simple. But then they unfold, they unravel, and they are beautiful.’
‘In Feel Free, Nick Laird’s fourth collection, the Northern Irish poet, novelist and former lawyer finds himself entering the heartland of middle age. It’s bittersweet for the writer but rewarding for the reader, as Laird considers the reality of having a child young enough to be bottle-fed and parents old enough to die … Some poems take a cheerfully apathetic look at middle age — such as The Cartoons and Team Me — and others are wholly romantic. “In the midst of our lifelike life/I come to this fork in your hand,” begins La Méditerranée, while Incantation borrows lines from Frank O’Hara and Kurt Vonnegut to make something particularly beautiful.’
'Excellent ... the highlights of the book are love poems and city poems for the Information Age: the poet’s situations and relationships – as a father, a son, a husband – are sized up and filtered through different kinds of brilliantly manipulated language, often tuned to a distinctive acoustic, an assonance that depends on short vowel sounds ... Laird's best book yet.'
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