By: Kate Clanchy
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
Few first collections in recent years have made the impact of Kate Clanchy’s award-winning Slattern, which gained her a reputation as a poet of great immediacy and wit. In this new book her range is extended dramatically. Samarkand is both a darker and a more sunlit collection than its predecessor. Inside, the reader will find surreal elegies; love poems of every humour; grim episodes from colonial history and meditations on home and distance as well as some practical advice on having sex with angels – all delivered with the effortless musicality of phrase and formal panache that are fast becoming Clanchy’s trademarks.
I purchased this book the same time I had picked up her Selected Poems (review) as I had read a few poems from here and found them interesting enough to just pick up the whole book. It arrived a little later than Selected Poems in the post so by the time I read this book I had already read a few of the poems it contained but I was nonetheless excited.
Admittedly it is hard for me to tell and agree whether this book is darker/more sunlit compared to her first poetry collection but I found this collection nonetheless an interesting read. Her poems range from love and relationships to a sense of place–whether it be home or some far-off place–to everyday matters that may seem mundane, like renovating a house or school matters. Her way of expression elevates these seemingly ordinary things into something else, a new perspective, or just some quiet reflection. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve read it, but I feel her poetry also has more of a formal structure compared to, let’s say, Rupi Kaur or Sarah Kay. Everyone has their own style when it comes to writing poetry, but I can’t help but feel like hers feels a little more reminiscent to classic poets I’ve read from the nineteenth century.
My favourite poems from this collection appear early on: “The Bridge Over the Border”, “To Travel”, “The Invisible Man”, “To a Doctor”, and “Speculation.” But overall this was an interesting collection and I’m glad to have gotten around to reading it.