Thursday, 12 July 2012

Back in early June, I launched School of Forgery alongside John Clegg's Antler, also out from Salt. Owing to an unfortunate concatenation of events, John arrived at the launch with very few copies of his book, and I gallantly deferred the chance to take home my own so that he might sell as many as possible on the night.

Earlier this week my own copy finally turned up, and while I'd say I'm probably too close to John now for a full review to be carried out with the requisite lack of bias, I did want to take a moment to say how much I like Antler and how, even against the backdrop of a steady flow of distinctive and excellent poetry volumes onto my exhausted bookshelves, it stands out as a genuinely characterful debut.

As the blurb hints at, Clegg mixes "genuine and imaginary anthropology", and the join between those aspects of his work that are essentially tall tales or fabulation and those that the results of diligent research is practically invisible. So too is the transition between tightly controlled traditional form and ranging free verse, the former being done so softly and unostentatiously. A quick march through some of the titles (Moss, Nightgrass, Wounded Musk Ox, Kayaks, Meteor, Dill, Mosquito) reads like a sort of ingredients list - words as ancient elements, boiled down tinctures, excavated knucklebones and panned nuggets, bottled and labelled for cautious use in the creation of spells and medicines. Plus there's the over-arching sensation of the poet's joyous obsessiveness, like a child collecting shells or insects, in everything he writes about.

So yeah, yeah, I recommend it.

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