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a.m. achieves something quite remarkable: a calm that is a sublimated urgency, a meditation on distance that opens into a habitat for human intimacy: ‘the emptiness that forms before love comes’. Distance here is a prerequisite for relation, and this writing is in relentless and passionate pursuit, courting ‘you’ for its extended family, placating ‘all of these things with their gaping beaks / of light and shape and weight, all asking / not to be left out’. One of the many joys of this artful construction is that it is a public building, at pains to resist ‘an outmoded binary opposition between luxury and necessity’. Mandelstam claimed ‘To read Pasternak’s poetry is to clear your throat, to fortify your breathing, to fill your lungs; surely such poetry could provide a cure for tuberculosis’. In a.m., Ayres has set his sights on the common cold.
‘Human breadth and scope, surging long-term rhythm, like a Russian novel, not like British poetry. An ordinary self fighting through image-fields: personal and lyrical without any of the diminution those adjectives normally imply, rather balladic: muckle sangs, hymns to the imagination. It is a shock – we do not in Britain expect our poets to be such heroes, or the life of the powerless to be so full of genuinely grand substance.’ —Peter Riley
‘The poetry of Michael Ayres occupies that space where the world and language collide, and it illuminates both.’ —Tony Frazer