A sweeping collection of poetry from one of Great Britain’s most celebrated postwar writers.
Bestselling British novelist Alan Sillitoe delves into the profound and personal world of poetry in this collection of two hundred poems written between 1950 and 1990. Culled from seven previously published volumes of verse — and including twenty-one newly collected works — Sillitoe employs wit, humor, aggression, and longing to take readers into the depths of his perceptions and philosophical musings. The compilation begins with Sillitoe’s early poems, which first appeared in The Rats and Other Poems (1960) while the writer was at work on his acclaimed novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. In “Shadow” a castaway meets a gentleman whom he recognizes as his own death. Meanwhile, a temperate climate renders death powerless in “Poem Written in Majorca.” And in “Excerpts from ‘The Rats’,” themes of mental exile, isolation, and the proliferation of corruption echo the sentiments of Arthur Seaton, the hero of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.
Proceeding chronologically, the next section includes works from A Falling Out of Love and Other Poems (1964). Here, the reader encounters a haunting confrontation with suicide in “Poem Left by a Dead Man,” a meditation on the elemental yet incomparable suffering of a poet in “Storm,” and a description of metaphysical chores in “Housewife.” Selections from Love in the Environs of Voronezh and Other Poems (1968) and Storm and Other Poems (1974) follow, including such works as “Baby” and “Smile,” which ponder questions of inevitability and impossibility in everyday life.
Unexpected perspectives on the Devil appear in the poems from Snow on the North Side of Lucifer (1979). Sun Before Departure (1974–1982) features the surreal and atmospheric “Horse on Wenlock Edge.” And the selections from Tides and Stone Walls (1986), including the koanlike “Receding Tide,” were inspired by a series of sea landscapes by photographer Victor Bowley. In the final section, New Poems (1986–1990), Sillitoe contemplates hope in the aftermath of war in “Hiroshima,” and deciphers an uncanny Morse code message in “Noah’s Arc.”
At once dark and luminous, Collected Poems offers both a departure from and insight into the “kitchen sink realism” Sillitoe is famous for. These pages impart an intimate look into the heart and mind of one of England’s most celebrated authors, and convey a profound vision of life — one in which death is close, but laughter is never far away.