Most helpful positive review
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Humane and emotionally articulate
on 25 November 2012
Julia Copus is one if the most interesting poets writing at the moment, for a combination of insight into emotions, acute observation of life, sometimes including scientific detail, and a wide ranging and subtle imagination. This collection was shortlisted for the 2013 TS Eliot Prize, and deservedly so.
Subjects include love relationships, not least in the final sequence about the poets experience of IVF treatment which looks at the effect of this on all protagonists the couple, medical interventions at the conception and the welcome of the resulting child. These have a poignancy and dignity in them that perhaps seem unlikely when one considers some of procedures in the treatment room.
That said, all these poems are very rooted in the human world, for example, in a poem that describes a past lover, or another describing a sixty year old man on a bus and his life remembering the time of the death of his mother. This poem, "Raymond at 60," consists of two stanzas on facing pages. It's only after reading this that one realizes the poem is a palindrome, where the second stanza has the same lines of the first in reverse. This attests to the virtuosity of the poet's control of her words, because it was not something I noticed until I had read the poem' and then moved on a few pages.
There are also poems that display a good knowledge of the arts, not least a sequence about a composer (not the same story as in the play Amadeus!) living and a reworking of a poem by Ovid. However, perhaps my favorite poem of this collection, and the one for me that is worth the price of the books alone is one called "Heronkind." This is about a slender heron's longing for reaching out to catch a fish. Copus concludes:
How much less complex
life would be
without this feverish
the wanter and the wanted,
though the truth of it is
that without fish
all heronkind would
This poem form me has a subtle music and states, with simplicity, a profound truth in a way that cannot be bettered.
This didn't win the TS Eliot Prize in the end. But we're all winners with poetry of this quality. Thank you, Julia.