By: Kate Clanchy
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
Kate Clanchy’s poems are much broadcast, translated and anthologised. This Selected Poems draws together her three prize-winning collections, Slattern, Samarkand, and Newborn, published between 1996 and 2004. These are poems about men and boys, school and home, the foreign and the familiar, and the grand adventure of parenthood, but above all about love in all its forms, gathered together in a single volume. This volume is a perfect introduction to a witty, lyrical and truly accessible poet; and for long-term fans, an integrated and satisfying assembly of Clanchy’s very best work.
I first encountered Kate Clanchy’s poetry in an anthology collection of love poems (“Patagonia”). It took a second read for me to really notice the poem, actually, and it left me wondering why I didn’t notice it in the first place, it lingered in a longing and beautiful way. Since then I had been meaning to check out her collected works and just more of her poetry. I’ve been on a poetry sort of mood over the summer that I decided to check out a few of her books 🙂
Well, I have to agree with the above blurb, this collection is a pretty good place to start if you’re interested in checking out her poems. This particular collection covers poems she wrote from three of her collections, which is also cool because you really get a sense of her progression as a poet but also the subject matter that she tackles: from love and long-term relationships, marriages, adulting matters (buying your own home, that sort of thing), to childbird and parenting. Punctured throughout the collection are also poems about far-off places and countryside walks that she’s travelled across, as well as mundane matters like school and shoes, lol, which mixes things up quite wonderfully here. Her imagery is interesting, definitely unique from some other poets I’ve read interesting, like a puzzle I have to decipher at times to understand why she chose that word or that similie.
There were of course a number of poems that stood out for me in this collection, “Patagonia” of course remaining a favourite and bears repeated posting here:
I said perhaps Patagonia, and pictured
a peninsula, wide enough
for a couple of ladderback chairs
to wobble on at high tide. I thought
of us in breathless cold, facing
a horizon round as a coin, looped
in a cat’s cradle strung by gulls
from sea to sun. I planned to wait
till the waves had bored themselves
to sleep, till the last clinging barnacles,
growing worried in the hush, had
paddled off in tiny coracles, till
those restless birds, your actor’s hands,
had dropped slack into your lap,
until you’d turned, at last, to me.
When I spoke of Patagonia, I meant
skies all empty aching blue. I meant
years. I meant all of them with you.
“Slattern”, “To Travel”, “Heroine”, and “To Absent People” were some of my other favourites from this collection. If you’re looking for some contemporary poetry to read, I highly recommend checking out Kate Clanchy’s poems! 🙂