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Billy's Rain [Paperback]

Hugo Williams

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Book Description

4 Oct 1999
The fifty poems in Billy's Rain chart the course of a love affair, now ended. Its complications, obsessions, evasions, secret joys and emotional pitfalls are explored with all the subtlety and irony of which Hugo Williams, among contemporary poets, is the acknowledged master. These are brilliant, wry and moving elegies for a love affair.

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About the Author

Hugo Williams was born in 1942 and grew up in Sussex. He worked on the London Magazine from 1961 to 1970, since when he has earned his living as a journalist and travel writer. Billy's Rain won the T. S. Eliot Prize in 1999. His Collected Poems was published by Faber in 2002 and his last collection, Dear Room, was published in 2006. He writes a freelance column for the TLS and lives in London.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Anti-Rhetoric of Love 26 Jan 2000
By Robert Fraser - Published on
Hugo Williams's account of a long finished love affair might seem a sort of diary of events, a naturalistic catalogue of passion. In fact, of course, it is highly artificial, its form a deliberate arrangement of memory as meticulous in its way as a vase of lillies. Consider, for example, his very avoidance of overt rhyme, his shunning of jog-trot rhythms. Consider too the very absence of gestural hyperbole, or any sort of excess. Williams is an utterly individual writer, but he is also the heir to the Movement poets of the 1950s with their pose of modesty, their almost narcissistic austerity, their avoidance of any vocal register more demonstrative than the conversational. Like Larkin, Williams celebrates the things that didn't happen, the missed opportunities of life: "The hotel cost too much/so we didn't even touch the bed"; "For I am sorry about what happened at the fairground the other day./ For I regret not going on the slides"; "If only they were waiting for us somewhere, the nights we didn't use, the things we didn't do.." This is all the amorous equivalent of Larkin regretting the glamorous childhood he never had. Williams has turned the grammatical negative into a stylistic device quite as self-conscious as the deployment by other poets of hyperbole. At the end of one stanza, blaming himself with typical self-disparagement for the unsatisfactory and unresolved nature of the affair, he uses the device twice in one line, coming close in the process to self-contradiction: "it was my decision," he remarks on page 44, "to do nothing that made nothing happen." The line is a shrug that is also a kind of flourish. The cumulative effect of all this is a variety of anti-rhetoric, the raising of anti-art into art, of ordinariness into a careful mode of chic. Williams never gives himself away; in the process he discloses himself utterly. Like the stammering lamp in the very last line of the volume, it is the poet himself who is "somehow refusing to blow." Yet this very self-containment represents a quiet noise of implosion. The judges of the T.S. Eliot Award chose well.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sensational poetry 24 Feb 2003
By David G. Post - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Magnificent poetry. Read it straight through, as a story of the rise and fall of a love affair. The economy of language is truly startling -- Williams tells the whole complex story through little glimpses of his life. He reminds me of Elizabeth Bishop -- if you like her poems, my guess is you'll find Williams a treat.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be read through as a story 22 Jun 2000
By D. P. Birkett - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The poems seem to form a continuous narrative telling the beginning and end of a love affair. If you took away the line breaks it would be a readable story. In fact I think Williams has previously written "poems" that are continuous blocks and is interested in pushing the edge of prose. Anglicisms, such as silver paper and day return and local London references add obscurity for an American reader and detract from an apparent intent to avoid poetic language. For example Trivia is about the way small things can hurt that remind of a lost love. Francis Thompson wrote "the scent of the rose is bitter to him that loved the rose" but Williams wants to avoid things like roses so he brings in names that sound (I think) prosaic and everyday to an English reader.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Book 28 Mar 2000
By A Customer - Published on
It's one of those miracles of direct communication -- even the color of the cover and the painting thereon are perfect -- not to mention the title. Willliams also writes delightful essays for the Times Literary Supplement.I wish this were on the best seller list instead of "Beowulf."
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good book. But let's be reasonable... 15 Mar 2002
By A Customer - Published on
This is a good book. It won the TS Eliot prize. That was surprising, but perhaps not very surprising. It is, after all, a good book. It would be a shame if people were lead to believe there weren't any better books though. Which there are. Lots. But this is still a good book. Maybe worth four stars. Not worth five.
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