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Faithful, Cliff Ashcroft’s ‘mesmerising first collection’ (New Statesman) was described by Kathleen Raine as “an impressive collection of poems … ambitious and remarkable … a recall to serious issues long evaded by poets writing in English.” His equally ambitious second book, Dreaming of Still Water, maintains Ashcroft’s “characteristic tone … of reserved epiphanies, a stillness within process.” (Penelope Shuttle) These intimate and graceful poems range widely in time and location, from the arenas of Carthage to the eighteenth century forests of Aveyron, from biblical landscapes to our own contemporary interiors. Beginning with the unanswerable queries of the bereaved and isolated, the book moves on to unexpected discoveries, strange arrivals, dream-like transfigurations.
Cliff Ashcroft’s work is highly regarded for its measured, calm atmosphere, “the lucid civilisation and grace of [his] poetry.” (Michael Hulse). He is a “consistently impressive poet … [his] simple, natural vocabulary and a careful level tone reminds us that small objects contain infinite possibilities.” (John Redmond, Times Literary Supplement)
‘Mysterious, mesmerising but above all moving, Cliff Ashcroft’s poetry offers a rare mix of the learned and the lyrical, poetry in which the past is just a heart’s beat away from the present, shimmering beneath the surface, an ancient fresco about to be restored. Like Ashcroft’s Cavafy – one of the many ghosts who haunt this affecting work – here are poems ‘learning the pleasantries/ of custom and culture, the language, the art.’’ —Josephine Balmer
‘Cliff Ashcroft’s poems arise from a sensibility which is enviable in its calm. They have been composed with an almost liturgical care and attention for the things of this world. The deliberate pacing and deceptive simplicity of these poems make Dreaming of Still Water an unusually attractive collection.’ —John Redmond
‘Like his master-poet Cavafy, Cliff Ashcroft speaks from and of the margins. His new collection is divided into three parts; ‘Lost’ (lost souls), ‘Waiting’ (personae), and ‘Arrivals’ (revelations, home-comings). Haunted by figures from far-history such as the early Christian martyrs, Perpetua and Pionius; by Lazarus, Antigone, by lepers, refugees, and by the wild children Kaspar Hauser, the wolf-girl Kamala, and the Wild Boy of Aveyron, he explores the multifarious strands of history and myth from which our times are woven. The beauty and originality of his quietism is singularly striking amid the look-at-me fake-daring of many of his contemporaries.’ —Penelope Shuttle
‘While Dreaming of Still Water shares many thematic concerns with its predecessor, it also represents an exciting progression, more assured, more confident, more mysterious; private moments of epiphany, quivering just out of reach on the horizon’s edge, even more intensified.’ —Josephine Balmer, Modern Poetry in Translation