These Days by Leontia Flynn

Published by Jonathan Cape, 8.00

Review by Cameron Self

These Days is the debut collection of poems by 29 year old Northern Irish poet Leontia Flynn -who this week was named as one of the twenty 'Next Generation Poets'.

Like many of the new poets her style is light and conversational which gives the poems a deceptively simple feel.

Her subjects range from memories of childhood, love, her mother and father, student life and urban life.

Some of the poems seem a little too clever and too slight. For example, in the opening poem Naming It she compares a moment of clarity to the difference between an avocado and an aubergine in her friend's 'well-stocked' fridge (?).  Then in Two Crossings - a poem about an Irish Sea crossing she is fluent but the ending is remarkably inconclusive:  'we are half asleep with this rocking as the boat approaches the harbour and home.' 

When her themes are stronger, however, she seems more successful. The two poems about her father Eeps (about his wiring skills) and Mangles are assured - as is the stately and solemn contemplation of time passing These Days  and Pet Deaths  about the loss of her terrier.

However, perhaps the finest poem in the collection is Without Me (no 5). (For some strange reason there are  five poems in the collection entitled Without Me ??) In this she turns a childhood memory of playing frisbee with the 'plastic lid of an old rat poison bin' into a transcendent, Heaney-esque piece which this time delivers a powerful ending:  ' And I would have sworn that our throw and catch had such momentum/ that its rhythm might survive, somehow, without me.'

Throughout the collection there are also echoes of Philip Larkin. In The Second Mrs De Winter she contemplates the 'falafel-cooking' previous occupant of her flat which is reminiscent of Mr Bleaney. There is  even a  nod to Christopher Marlowe in Come Live With Me.

Although Flynn uses very little rhyme and few traditional stanzas, it's nice to see her sneak in an accomplished sestina (26) towards the end of the collection.

Surefooted, if a little inconsequential, Leontia Flynn is certainly one to keep an eye on for the future.  

 7/10

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