The blurb on the back of the book announces John Glenday as "something of a well-kept secret." Having previously only seen one of his poems in an anthology, I would agree. This included a glowing description of him from Don Paterson, who is now his editor at Picador, stating that "Glenday's subject is the soul and the soul of things."
This is a grand statement, though Glenday's poems in this are certainly not grandiose. Indeed, they are often intimate and very lyrical as is shown by a sequence of love poems in the centre of this short book of 48 pages. Yet one of the other things that characterise the poems is his imagination, which some times has a surreal edge. For example in one of the love poems he manages to draw in the "canning industry" and a time of peaches. There is another that is decidedly humorous creating saints associated with "drunken brawling praise." Others have a decidedly existential aspect such as one when he invites us toL
beyond the hearts breath
and the lingering soul...
to the sound of things becoming
what the never will again.
There is a lot of listening in these poems. They invite the reader to reach into objects and discover this soul in a strikingly modern context. Let's hope Glenday does not remain a secret for any longer.
on 18 July 2011
Grain, John Glenday's first volume since 1995, has 43 short poems. This is recognisably the poet of Undark, but happier, more open, more playful. (It took an embarrassing three readings before I got the joke in the litany of saints, St Orage.)
His tone is quietly intimate, often directed to a `you' and ending with a declaration. Here Glenday responds in Silence the Colour of Snow to the accusation of never talking:
...Hush now, not another word.
Look! High over the frozen roofs,
my answer hangs and falls, that six-fingered star.
There are meditations on love and on death - as in the inversions of Etching of a Line of Trees - and there's religious conviction alongside a love of this world. Sometimes you need Wikipedia but Glenday often writes with shocking simplicity. A volume of poetry to fall in love with.
on 26 August 2015
What a wonderful set of poems this is! This is the first contemporary poetry book I have read and moved by many of the poems in this book.
Highlights include: "Silence the Colour of Snow", "Grain", "The Uncertain", "Imagine you are Driving" and the majestic "At Innernytie" among many others.
Thank you Mr. Glenday for writing this book.