This is a hungry, searching collection from a poet who tackles every subject – the death of Seemberjeet Kaur, a small green frog on the track to Lumb Bank, politics, hatred, love, silence and everything in between – with generosity, passion and inventiveness. Nick Allen captures the ways that landscapes can both undo us and make us want to live.
Here is the poet as naturalist, historian, elegist, social-commentator and celebrant. the riding – a particularly Yorkshire term – sees Nick Allen sometimes staring ferociously, often gazing contemplatively, at what characterizes the Yorkshire of his experience and the experiences of those who inhabit, and have inhabited, his locale. People, animals, landscapes, the sum of all that has been lost, and what remains, evolve. These poems offer so much more than a ‘poetry of place’ and, though often hard-hitting, they are essentially brim full of existential joy, as Allen steps into the tracks of others. A fine and compelling collection.
Familiar and yet strange, dreamlike yet concise, curious yet knowing, Allen’s poetry looks at the world afresh and hands it to us, without judgement, like we’re seeing it for the very first
time. This is not so much a book of words but of language itself, moulded with a sculptor’s precision. There is a presence in these poems that was here long before us and will be here long after we’ve gone. Allen is unafraid to ask difficult questions and these poems often bristle with vulnerability. This collection welcomes you in from the cold again and again and then throws you back out into the rain. Allen doesn’t look at the world head on but listens in, peers round corners, catches glimpses of what isn’t always meant to be seen. At its best, this is poetry on the very edge, handled with rare skill. These poems set out in search of something and discover more than they could ever have hoped to find.
Nick Allen’s the necessary line is a deft manoeuvre on the tightrope between tenderness and angst; Hiroshima and Grenfell jostle against fjords and night skies; the pleasures of the flesh interrogate existential moments of alienation. Despite finding ‘a violent ringing emptiness/at the heart of everything,’ the collection is mostly a celebration of love, of life, and of words.’
I told you he was good at spelling, it was the grammar that needed practice.