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Eric Gregory Award Winner
The poems in Antler stalk their quarry over difficult ground. Prehistoric landscapes blend with genuine and imaginary anthropology; the real world becomes distorted through the dark mirrors of folktale and myth; fraudsters, liars, and con-men lurk perpetually in the shadows. This panorama is emotional, too, most vividly in the collection’s centrepiece: the sequence ‘Vaisala and Sinuhe’, charting an astronomy professor’s infatuation with one of his postgraduate students, who may or may not be a werewolf. Pared-down, playful and often very funny, Clegg’s poetry keeps faith with what is tactile and tangible (moss, leather, bone), distilling plainspoken diction, luminous imagery and a unique worldview into lines which remain in the head for a long while after the book has been closed.
‘John Clegg’s ludic mythology concerns things of mystery and the mystery of things, in language that is lucid yet uncanny. Fact jostles with fantasy and fable with fib, to conjure worlds recognizable but just out of reach, teasing, beckoning. Here is the emergence of a voice already assured but bewitchingly original.’ —Gareth Reeves
‘Along with an affinity for antlers, ivory, and leather, Clegg shows a clear dictation of syntax that bridles none of his poetry's emotional or surreal qualities.’ —Jerry Brunoe
‘I must have been waiting for a poet to fuse deep sincerity and irony, craft and process, the surreal and the historical, because I read this twice in one sitting, fizzing with jealousy. Clegg’s poetry is a must. And while he may be well-versed in the cutting edge of literary theory, he’s even better versed in the classics. Beautifully crafted utterly contemporary. His work makes me feel the way I felt when I first read the New York School, or tasted pistachio flavour icecream, or the house-lights dimmed.’ —Luke Kennard
‘Clegg mixes "genuine and imaginary anthropology", and the join between those aspects of his work that are essentially tall tales or fabulation and those that the results of diligent research is practically invisible. So too is the transition between tightly controlled traditional form and ranging free verse, the former being done so softly and unostentatiously. A quick march through some of the titles (’Moss’, ‘Nightgrass’, ‘Wounded Musk Ox’, ‘Kayaks’, ‘Meteor’, ‘Dill’, ‘Mosquito’) reads like a sort of ingredients list – words as ancient elements, boiled down tinctures, excavated knucklebones and panned nuggets, bottled and labelled for cautious use in the creation of spells and medicines. Plus there's the over-arching sensation of the poet's joyous obsessiveness, like a child collecting shells or insects, in everything he writes about.
So yeah, yeah, I recommend it.’ —Jon Stone