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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 15 May 2013
This is a book of treasures - 150 poems, each of 15 lines (yet in a wide range of stanzaic variations), on themes that are familiar in lyric poetry but which the poet treats with tenderness, endless ingenuity, wit, self-deprecation and physicality. I'm reading it slowly, just three or four poems at a time, because the facility of writing could easily tempt a superficiality of reading - which would be a great shame. Several individual poems (even particular lines) are full of delicacy and subtle perception, yet turn out to be making a big - often cosmic - point. Three stanzas from 'Smoke' as an example:
'One building bleeds into another. / Torch beams shrink to yellow burrs. / Headlamps fade to dandelion clocks. // Distances collapse. Shouts could cross / streets, valleys, oceans. Silence, broken / by a siren on another continent. // And what burns? Sweet and salt, / bracken, berries, hair. What new edifice / hardens within, waits for the world to sharpen?'

Warmly recommended, even if (like me) you already have far too many poetry books to fit on your shelves...
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on 12 September 2014
This is a lively, engaging, provocative book of poems that play with life at many levels. I like the particularity of it -- this response, at this moment, in this context. As in the Book of Psalms, there are a hundred and fifty poems, but that is the end of the definite connection. This is not a free version, nor do the poems correspond to Psalms in any way. But it is packed with allusions, references, starting points, reflections, and an alignment with the starting-point of the notional Psalmist. It starts in life -- where are we today? what's going on? how do I live through it? it's not that bad, really; and so on -- and it returns to life, as in the illustrations in a psalter, or in the mix of exotic, aromatic and transformative goods suggested by the title. I like it.
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on 26 April 2013
I am enthralled by this book. Thought I might tire of the 15 lines but it is so varied I barely notice. It arrived on time and perfect.
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on 16 March 2014
A series of 150 poems, all but one of fifteen lines. Within that limitation of length, they use a wide variety of verse structure and tone. They range from the mystical to the politically engaged. Many of the poems take very ordinary things as starting-points and transmute them into something wonderfully rich and strange. This volume shows Michael Symmons Roberts writing at his best, with his imagination at full stretch. If you like modern poetry, this is a book to relish.
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on 7 July 2014
There are a few really top class poems here, but sadly they're lost in the poor quality of the rest of the work. The collection needed a much stronger editor and a significant amount of culling.
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on 16 April 2014
Wow that poet manages to create 150 poems of 15 lines and make each one as unique as a snowflake. Definitely worth buying
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on 23 February 2014
The voice of the poems is not like anything else I’ve ever heard before. It’s difficult to put into words – you couldn’t describe it as surreal, quite, though there’s lots of strangeness, obliqueness. The poems don’t feel autobiographical, but clearly they’re deeply felt and in no sense impersonal. There’s a haunted feeling to the whole collection, as if an Observing Angel, who sees things in a new and often disquieting way, has visited the world.

It’s as if some larger myth is at work in the world – as if between the office blocks and cars, the perfume and rain, the conferences, karaoke booths, hotels, cooking smells and coffee cups, something else is moving, something deeper. That ‘something’ can never be grasped, but it can be glimpsed, sometimes, out of the corner of our eye. In one poem, Night Freight to take a fairly random example, Symmons Roberts talks of ‘dimensions/too close and subtle for our senses.’ And that’s exactly what the collection explores and embodies.
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on 25 February 2015
A wonderfully constructed set of poems, one hundred and fifty poems at fifteen lines each is quite delightful and provides a pleasant poem for each day.
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on 8 March 2014
Very disappointed with this prize winning book, I have studied many books of poetry but find this very difficult to access.
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on 3 November 2013
Certainly the best poetry book published this year. Sometimes the writing is a little uneven, but there some great poems here.
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