Resilient and fluent, this is a confident debut, set in a landscape of Northern light and Northern grit. A young couple found in a photograph become the father in the mills, the mother at the washing tub; we hear of romance, Cambridge, betrayal, an ageing self, village life in Yorkshire. But what makes Alan Prout’s poems so memorable is their persuasive cadence and buoyant tone: unpretentious, irreverent, moving, witty, Brechtian, irrepressibly upbeat.
And how can I keep the fire alive, asks the last hunter-gatherer in Alan Prout’s collection, and the book is crammed with lights and glowing, the tints of textiles and a dazzling mum. From the boy scrunched uncomfortably in heavy wool against a 1950s Pennine winter to the man beating the drum of hope and optimism, Prout has been a quiet and thoughtful observer. Then become looks at the start and disappointments of love, makes us feel the thisness of a tree in spring, and delivers an ovine parable about learning to live together.
Musical and elegant, these poems, challenge and delight with acutely observed detail, gentle humour and authority. Some are autobiographical, some historical, some imagined, but all show a strong individual poetic voice. From the boy thrilled by the glamour of an evening outing with his mother, to the last survivor of an ancient tribe, the subjects are vivid and relatable. Prout take us from a West Yorkshire village preoccupied by sheep to a Portuguese writer with multiple persona to a President’s virtual trash bin, deftly changing form. An assured and impressive debut.