Top critical review
on 21 March 2015
“The Brink” is an apt name for Polley’s debut collection, not because as Charles Bainbridge stated in his Guardian review that Polley “draws intense attention to the edge of things, that point where land becomes sea, north south, interior exterior and, most of all, the moment when the ordinary is recast as the miraculous. He delights in a kind of pared down metamorphosis,” but because the entire work seems to be on the brink of explaining something, of expressing some emotion or idea that never quite unfolds with the lines of the poems enclosed.
There is, without doubt, some beautiful language expressed within the collection and there are examples of precise and startling observation. “the pines, like flour merchants/ clapping their powdery hands” in “Boast” or “the moon’s sieving/its desiccated seas” in “Snow” and the overarching tone of peace and quiet stillness is developed throughout.
But here in lies one of the biggest stumbling blocks with the collection as a whole: although the individual moments are expressed with a still life clarity, they all meld into one as you read through the poems, creating an effect of sameness which renders the collected works unremarkable in terms of their scope and underlying message.
The poems seem to rely on the same ideas, themes and constructs, which because of the deftness of the language and the eye for detail of Polley work on one level, on another you feel as though you have read these words and have been told of these things before. Poems such as “Snow” “The Crow” and “The Grey Goose” do not go beyond the mere descriptive, and one wonders whether that are fully finished and explored – on the brink of an announcement.
This idea of un-fulfilment runs throughout the collection. The shorter poems such as “Seagulls” “First Light” and “A Jar of Honey” hold little beyond their well-structured image based language, and though nicely written, leave you asking so what?
Overall, the collection is an ok read. For me, there was nothing that stood out beyond the clever turns of phrase and refined, perceptive imagery.