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Mandeville [Paperback]

Matthew Francis
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

20 Mar 2008
The Travels of Sir John Mandeville was one of the most popular books of the later Middle Ages. Purporting to describe the circumnavigation of an English knight through Africa, India, and the Middle East in 1322, the narrative is a fantastical collection of sights: seas, islands, phoenixes, pyramids, rocks that enchant ships and apes that contain human souls, interwoven with geographical descriptions that are perfectly accurate. Matthew Francis's new collection is a sequence of poems that celebrate and give voice to Mandeville, in his own words, caught as he is between physical and symbolic geographies, between a world that is round and one that has Jerusalem at its centre. And all of it narrated in the terse, solitary, conflicted and strangely passionate voice of this medieval Crusoe whose very existence was disputed.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (20 Mar 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571239277
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571239276
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.6 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 712,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

A fascinating collection of poems reworking the travels of the enigmatic medieval explorer Sir John Mandeville.

About the Author

Matthew Francis is the author of two Faber collections, Blizzard and Dragons, both shortlisted for the Forward Prize, and editor of W. S. Graham's New Collected Poems. He has also published a study of Graham, Where the People Are, and a novel, WHOM. in 2004 he was named as one of the Next Generation Poets. He is Reader in Creative Writing at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, and lives in West Wales with his wife, Creina.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adventures with words and worlds 18 May 2008
By Sheenagh Pugh VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
You can't flick through this collection browsing here and there, as you can with most. You really do have to read it in order, like a narrative, because it mirrors Sir John Mandeville's highly coloured 14th-century account of his world travels.

Now I know subject matter shouldn't make a difference, it should all be about the poet's skill. But the fact is, some subject matter really is more attractive than others - if we are going to immerse ourselves in a fictional world, it might as well be one we find congenial - and with me, tall travellers' tales are always going to win out over, say, confessional poems or misery memoirs. Who wouldn't want to hear about the Cairo Incubator and the way the excessive greenery in Egypt crystallises into a glut of emeralds? (I did say they were tall tales).

But in the end, the main recommendation of this collection is indeed Francis's skill with words. This fictional travelogue is all about new ways of seeing and re-creating the world - from the start, where he describes sleeping on board ship "while the night is lifted and dropped with you inside it". This wonderful inventiveness with words and ideas never fails him. "Of Islands" ends:

Islands and stories. Every time you arrive, you think
how it would feel to pull the sea around you at night,
except that the next land floats in the distance, waiting.

It was an old pirate saying that there were always "other islands, further on" and something of the enterprise and inspiration of those irresistible reprobates lives in this collection. I found it genuinely exciting to read, unputdownable in the way that poetry collections so frequently aren't.
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