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Powerful and evocative poems of love, loss, and memory which range from contemporary England to a Scottish childhood, from the State of England to the pieties and pressures of growing up in a religious culture in which expression and pleasure were highly problematic. The poems are technically accomplished, using traditional forms such as the sonnet, the villanelle, as well as free verse, but coming back again and again to the base line, the industry standard, of the ten-syllable line. The influences of Heaney, Larkin, W.S. Graham and the Romantic tradition are evident, as well as the more recent influences of the richly gifted younger generation of Scottish poets born around the early 1960s. Other aesthetic co-ordinates are provided by Vermeer, Stanley Spencer and Alfred Wallis, with a visit to the grave of John Keats in Rome providing one of the collection’s defining moments. A strong theme in the collection is the intimacies of family life, with tender and at times anguished recollections of parents, moving celebrations of fatherhood, and often humorous and down to earth poems about relationships in the context of modern professional life. In the spirit of the Romantic tradition, different places often provide the settings for moments of insight or resolution with nature acting as a constant backdrop of reassurance that whatever darkness there may be, it is not the darkness of the abyss, but the darkness before dawn.
‘How relationships refer to each other, a constant source of fascination, meshing over time, space, generations. Complex emotions subtly, and fully sensually, rendered.’ —Janice Galloway
‘Reading Raymond Friel’s poetry there’s the recognition of his acute observation, of his visual lucidity, and the kind of spiritual play he has with figures within a real but heightened landscape.’ —Richard Price
‘Raymond Friel is the kind of energetic poet who can find subject matter in anything, and with some audacity he turns it into poems for us.’ —Rennie Parker
‘Friel has been recognised early in his poetic career as a significant writer in the younger generation of Scottish poets.’ —Douglas Lipton
‘His strengths are a haiku clarity of vision, a refusal to go beyond what is perceived, and above all an ear for speech-rhythms which is firmly to the ground.’ —Harry Clifton
‘An exceptional collection from an outstanding writer, this ripely rewarding book from a Scottish maestro in mid career ought to be valued very highly indeed.’ —Donny O’Rourke, Northwords Now