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Book Review

Fire Songs by David Harsent (Faber & Faber)

firesongs (2)‘ … this is a compelling, not a depressing, read. Fire Songs teems with images and ideas that manage to be both richly detailed and vividly musical, from ‘the sopping bud’ of a dead Christ’s heart to an alliterative ‘scorch on corn and kale’. The wide‐ranging word‐choice is consistently surprising and beautiful: ‘the raised arm /of the dreamscape silhouette. The tierce that hunts /from high‐rise city blocks in a slipstream of dead air.’ Full‐rhyme and end‐rhyme play a greater part than they have hitherto: as the virtuoso rooms/reams/ rhymes of ‘Effaced’ close in, they let us hear Dorothy Wordsworth’s entrapment by William.’ (Fiona Sampson, The Independent)

‘Creating verse which garners critical attention is one thing – it feels as though a cynical box‐ticking exercise sometimes permeates contemporary poetry – but crafting verse which affects a deeply primordial, human reaction – whether it be subtle unease or caustic fear – is something entirely different, something more skilled and much more worthwhile, and this is Harsent’s success. Fire is his chosen symbol, the paradoxical emblem of fear, salvation, destruction and regeneration. Harsent does not claim it as his own, he renders it as a universal, eternal signifier which haunts our nightmares, underpins our relationships and possesses civilisation‐ending power: ‘The bed/time story is fire, the fairy‐tale is fire, the promise of light/to a dying man is really a promise of fire. What’s left to be said?’ (Ralf Webb, Ambit)

ISBN 9780571316076
Hardback, 80 pages
£12.99 (£11.00 during March 2015)

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Five Leaves Poetry Book of the Month is in association with Stanza poetry reading group. Every month we feature a poetry book chosen by Nottingham Stanza.

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