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Andrew Pidoux’s Year of the Lion is at once accessible and strange, like a public dream. In the title poem, a society is gripped by a sudden craze for having pet lions. Elsewhere, a mutated frog baby is born in Kansas to an adoring mum and crazed angels spin around the dome of a church “like wisps of wild laundry”.
The collection includes many tender portraits of artists, philosophers and writers who each revel in the liberating capabilities of the imagination. Here you will find the unsettling surrealist painter Leonora Carrington, the self-effacing writer Robert Walser and the reality-bending philosophers Deleuze and Guattari, all brought to life in tributes that endeavor to channel their original vividness.
Another preoccupation is the animal world, particularly what we can see in it of ourselves. A hunted deer flashes a woman’s face, feral cats are “furred with human fears” while giraffes terrorize the peaceful English countryside.
just as often it is unknown or unnamed artists who stake their place alongside the greats in Pidoux’s poems. A gypsy woman “melts into her art” in Playing with Fire, while in The Cove Dweller a would-be writer flips open her laptop “like a limpid secret”.
Places too inform this geographically widely spaced collection, though here as elsewhere, Pidoux describes only what the imaginative would see—unreal cities, deserts subjected to mirages and a post-communist seaside resort “locked in sunshine”. Another preoccupation is the animal world, particularly what we can see in it of ourselves. A hunted deer flashes a woman’s face, feral cats are “furred with human fears” while giraffes terrorize the peaceful English countryside. Writing in a wide range of forms from the sonnet to the demanding terza rima, this technically accomplished poet never sacrifices clarity and directness, making this collection both challenging and compulsively readable.
‘Year of The Lion pictures a world a little like our own, only more so. The details are skewed, unsettling, larger-than-life, and it would be lazy to call them ‘dreamlike’. These are wide-awake poems, skillfully drawn, brilliantly imagined.’ —Helen Ivory
‘If we read poetry in the hope of encountering the challengingly unexpected, then Andrew Pidoux is, without a doubt, the real thing. He is already a master of line and phrase, of the imagined and meticulous, the careful and the carefree, the enigmatic but genuine, and, above all, metaphor-forming narrative. He possesses a distinct gift for melodic verse. On the page it looks traditional, but it's too off-beat for that to fit, as in the terza rima of "Three Musicians" or the simple quatrains of some others. His ekphrastic poems (and there are several here, as you would expect from a poet who studied painting and drawing) seem to arise from a strange perception of what lurks, like a secret, behind the image. This is a must-read collection by a new poet.’ —Douglas Dunn