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Conjure [Paperback]

Michael Donaghy
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
Price: 5.88 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

8 Sep 2000
Conjure is Michael Donaghy’s third collection, and his most accomplished to date, displaying the same trademark elegance, sleight of hand and philosophical wit that have established his reputation as a ‘poet’s poet’. But while these poems time their feints and punches as well as ever, often the poet’s guard is deliberately kept down: Conjure’s elegies and disappearing acts, love songs and tortuous journeys represent the most challenging, vulnerable and moving work Donaghy has yet written. ‘Among the finest American poets of his generation’ Robert McPhillips ‘The artistry of Donaghy’s work seems to me exemplary’ Sean O’Brien ‘The fine-tuned precision of a twelve-speed bike’ Alfred Corn

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Product details

  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (8 Sep 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330391100
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330391108
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.4 x 0.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 54,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

This collection of poems by Michael Donaghy begins impressively. The first poem, "The Excuse", is a comic-but-elegiac, sly-yet-touching riff on the pain of losing and remembering a father: "'My father's sudden death has shocked us all', Even me, and I've just made it up". The second, equally sensitive poem "Not Knowing the Words", also deals with a dead father, but this time gently and eloquently argues with itself as to how the father's void can be filled. Then there's the fourth poem, "Black Ice and Rain". This is a true tour de force: a shocking, troubling, mercurial, coolly erotic and beautiful poem on love, loss, guilt and secrecy:
and where I've hoped to hear my name gasped out, from cradle, love bed, death bed, there instead I catch her voice, her broken lisp, his name
.It would be very difficult for any poet to sustain this very high quality of writing, and Donaghy doesn't. Later on in Conjure there is more than one insubstantial lyric, the odd bit of hack writing, some shorter verses that could have been excluded. But just when you are getting wearied Donaghy throws up another absolute gem, another breathtaking poem which sparkles with his tell-tale wit, demotic bathos, verbal dexterity, emotional candour, pure lyrical style and formal diversity. --Sean Thomas

About the Author

Michael Donaghy was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1954. In 1985 he moved to London, where he worked as a teacher and traditional Irish musician. He died in 2004.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Resolutely Brilliant 2 Jan 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Borges says somewhere that 'unhappily, all literature is made of tricks, and those tricks get - in the long run - found out'. Michael Donaghy seems to know this, indeed, makes such a notion explicit in his book's title, 'Conjure'. But, while there are poems here that turn themselves inside out, that show their workings like radios with their backs off, there's a much more unobtrusive and subtle vein at work here too. It's good - in a climate where it rains the 'real life', the docu-dramatic - to find a poet this smart, bringing this kind of verve to bear on his material. He can do narrative - 'Black Ice and Rain' is one of his best (and, if you haven't seen it already, you're only a few clicks away from his first two collections, handily collected by Picador as 'Dances Learned Last Night') - but never the kind of long-winded sob story where the only person the poet seems to be tricking is himself. The author once likened our culture to a vast, posh shop, with the security cameras switched off. This is a brilliant book. Long may he ram raid.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Michael Donaghy is arguably the greatest poet now writing in Britain, though he's far from our most prolific. This is only his third collection in twelve years and, indeed, it reads like the product of intense and passionate labour. It's already won him the Forward Prize and has been shortlisted for the Whitbread and T.S. Eliot Prizes - setting a new record in the world of poetry prizes - and luminaries such as Melvyn Bragg and Andrew Motion have listed it as their "book of the year". It would be breathtaking for it's sheer painstaking artistry and verbal texture alone (Donaghy seems to cover more territory in a line than some poets can with an entire poem) but masterpieces such as "Black Ice and Rain", "Annie" and "Not Knowing The Words" - elegies, dramatic monologues and love songs - drive relentlessly and unforgettably to the core of emotional truths. Even the best collections contain the odd tedious poem but this is one of those rare books without a single boring page! Conjure is simply the most moving and imaginative collection of poems I've read for years and should be required reading for anyone seeking passion and intelligence in contemporary poetry.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rare masterpiece from a great poet 13 Mar 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Conjure is an exquisite collection by a poet who more than any other writing today sings to us. His poems contain an enchanting music which sometimes marries simplicity and beauty together in a way reminiscent of Mozart. But it is not just the song with Donaghy, it is what he makes music about. The lovely little poem Tears, which is short enough to quote in full, gives us a flavour of the world of Conjure:
Tears
are shed, and every day
workers recover
the bloated cadavers
of lovers or lover
who drown in cars this way. /
And they crowbar the door
and ordinary stories pour,
furl, crash, and spill downhill -
as water will - not orient,
nor sparkling, but still
There is a lot of pain in this book, a lot of loss. There is his father, there is the child - looking in wonder and without sadness, and there are signs of a Catholicism lived and left behind. There are terrible facts from history, in 'Where is it written that I must die here' there is a scene so horrible that it gave me a nightmare and haunts the edge of my imaginings, but that is the poet's job - lest we forget and such facts drown in such seas as the Guinness Book of Records. Against the pain and loss there is humour and tenderness and metaphysical fancy. In both the music that he makes and the stories he tells there are beats and images that make us laugh. There is also laughter and delight as he magics words into giving us pictures of mysterious realms.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A poetry of cool intellect and emotional warmth 11 Oct 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Michael Donaghy's new collection is characterised by his familiar combination of great intellectual acuity and emotional intelligence. Donaghy has always been able to find a compelling balance between the personal and the universal, the epic and the local, the comic and the tragic. This collection demonstrates that ability in abundance.
The most moving sequence of poems deals with the loss of his father; imaginary encounters and conversations between father and 'old son' (with haunting echoes of Hamlet creeping onto the stage). The aptly-titled "Haunts" and "The Excuse", both dealing very powerfully with this theme, each frame the collection at its end and its beginning respectively.
Amongst the many highlights of the collection, and in a more anecdotal-historical vein, are "The Drop"; "Timing"; "The Palm"; and "Needlework", to name but a fairly random selection from a very strong collection. One of the most rewarding books of poetry I have read in recent years.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars stunning collection 13 Jun 2002
Format:Paperback
Donaghy's latest collection is a stunning one. Donaghy is an excellent poet. "Black Ice and Rain", one of the better poems, is a tragic narrative/dramatic monologue about loss. The poem works on many levels. Immediately following is "Our Life Stories", which is another of the best of the poems. The other poems in the collection are also very good. I draw your attention to these two only because they stand up as not only the best in the book, but some of the best poetry being written. The only complaint I have is that the quality of the binding Picador did is very poor. I only hope that as they reprint this volume they'll improve the quality of their bookmaking.
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