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The Damage: New and Selected Poems offers an up-beat selection from Milne’s emerging oeuvre. Along with excerpts from the earlier works Sheet Mettle and Bench Marks, this edition offers a new version of How Peace Came, the art installation made with Andrew James, which is featured on the jacket illustration. Artistic collaboration informs a number of poems in dialogue with music, sculpture and pop lyricism, but this selection also includes a number of surprises, such as the occasional poem “Epithalamion” and a homage to Vladimir Mayakovsky. As well as collecting the pamphlets Songbook, As it Were and Familiars, the new works made available here for the first time include two longer sequences, [sic] and sweeping new measures, which push and pull at the envelopes of contemporary perception. Milne’s work can be read through his critical writings, which argue for a reworking of Hegel and Marx, or through his interest in the wittier ends of modernism, a mischievous impulse evident in the collection Pig Cupid. Although often associated with Cambridge poets such as J.H.Prynne and John Wilkinson, this collection also reveals a distinctive Scottish edge. The sequence ‘Aggropolis’, first published in “Edinburgh Review”, reworks the roadblocks put up around Scottish lyric by Hugh MacDiarmid. More recent poems in this collection suggest friskier dialogues with poetic notes associated with Samuel Beckett, Frank O’Hara, Mina Loy, or Tom Raworth. The damaged goods of contemporary capitalism are rarely far from view, but there is a lyric insouciance that cuts through Milne’s wounded provocations.
‘A substantial collection of poetry … left-leaning yet awkwardly playful, mixing ethical concern with fantastic energy and formal device.… Milne sings, puzzles, suggests and takes lyricism to new places.’ —Steve Spence, Terrible Work
‘… At their best, these poems, teetering on the edge of the communicable, offer a delightful playful surface, as if unexpected words had somehow slipped into someone else’s structures.’ —Tony Frazer, Shearsman
‘… gloriously Apocalyptic … Milne’s most vulnerable characteristic, his almost bardic intensity, is actually what I find most admirable …’ —James Keery, P.N. Review
‘We get a full set of warnings as well as a strong charge to the batteries. The circuit of a trapped intellection, fuelled by passion for clarity and outcome but hedged by the current limits of investment in the language market (loanback, I suppose), maps out an uncomfortable place with a corrective ferocity …’ —J.H. Prynne
‘Milne isn’t a million miles from the techno-Situationism of The KLF.… Perhaps his genius is really comic.… The technique is like sampling, and The Apes of God …’ —Andrew Duncan