|The first thing that strikes you about
The Brink, is that it does not employ the ironic conversational
tone favoured by so many of the today's new poets. Instead it
sticks firmly to the tried and tested descriptive tone
popularised by the likes of
Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes.
In fact, the poems have a reassuring Anglo-Saxon feel
to them. Polley makes use of consonance, alliteration and assonance
- not to mention some breathtaking similes. In Fish we are told: 'the eels on the fields in the rain,
coupling and uncoupling, like iron escaped from a blacksmith's
bucket;'. Or in The Boast we have the rather stunning description of a crow
in a snowy landscape: ' spilling its wings from its own inkstand and
trickling into the distance'.
Polley's subject matter is birds, fish (cooked and otherwise), landscapes, snow (2 poems), the sea and
his father. Obviously we are again firmly in the world of Ted Hughes - but
what I like
about Polley's poetry is that he is not afraid to include 'unpoetic' elements into
his work. In First Light, for example we have
'the new couch, wrapped in plastic', in The Kingdom of Sediment 'bicycle
spokes and ragged tins' in the bed of a remembered stream and in Crabbing
'beer bottles scrape the harbour wall'.
In his poem Singing School Seamus Heaney tells us that
'Description is revelation' and in the hands of the Irish master it
often is. Polley is fortunate to share this knack for most of the
time. If there is a
criticism of The Brink - and to be frank it's quite hard to
find one - it is that some of the poems fail to make the jump from
description to revelation. In Crabbing for example, which is a
fine evocative piece about fishing for crabs in the harbour, the
final ' tip them out, count them and kick them back into the sea '
is a little disappointing. In his poem The Snag Polley
may even hint at this particular shortcoming in his work when
he writes: ' What's my point? It falls short like the sighting of
dead stars' .
For once, then, you can take the blurb on the dust jacket at face
value. Polley does indeed possess a 'remarkably mature talent'
- especially since he is still in his twenties. However, it will be
interesting to see, when he emerges more fully from the shadow of
Hughes and Heaney, whether his
poetry improves or deteriorates? If it improves, then we are
certainly all in for a treat.