The Kabul Olympics is a book of impossible places, from the imagined Kabul of the title poem to ‘City of Trees’ which conjures an alternate, parallel Manchester in the aftermath of the Arena bombing, from a plane spiralling ever upwards into the eye of a storm in ‘Godsend’ to the becalmed travels of ‘The Harbours’, a sequence which reflects on nationalism and border crossing. Many of these poems find themselves in the dark, on journeys whose destinations seem uncertain, an uncertainty to which the book grows accustomed, teasing out strands of inheritance and departures which take the poems offshore into the heart of political crises as well as returning to the household lyrics which John McAuliffe has made his own.
John McAuliffe‘s The Kabul Olympics is vivid poetry which pits individual lives and ordinary days and hours and minutes against the historical events and catastrophes which would blow them away.
‘The range and variety of this collection is considerable but McAuliffe is especially good — modest and amusing — on the home front. There is a wry poem about a losing battle against weeds, about failing to pitch a tent, and a charming poem about a par of vases, wedding presents. The poem starts as a still life bit is not altogether still. One vase gets broken, while its neglected twin is spotted on a shelf:this
remaining vase coolly at home up there where it had been forgotten,
a drink of air in its open mouth.
That last image is a good example of the clear wit of his style at best.’ Kate Kellaway, The Guardian, Poetry Book of the Month
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