Nowhere’s Far as its title suggests is both close to the heart, immediately approachable and inhabitable, but also right out there in the world of the imagination where all sorts of strange things meet. Whether laugh-out-loud funny or staring straight into the abyss, Phil Bowen’s highly distinctive poems are written with great originality, rhythm and nerve. Here are poems that pass ‘the spelling test’ – casting a spell that in turn creates a distinct world whose landscape readers can inhabit for the poems’ duration. His voice is decidedly contemporary and commendably sparing of the first person singular and the merely observational.
His poetry is both celebratory and colourful yet at times menacingly dark in its uncompromising vision. He has always had a strong sense of the absurd and the surreal, and the book is rich in macabre comedy, romantic slants and theatrical cameos – including affectionate portraits of some of his favourite practitioners ranging from Philip Larkin and Leonard Cohen to Max Wall and Ken Dodd – but as the later poems reveal he combines a heightened sense of lyric with a deft touch and use of rhyme and form, his poetry constantly underpinned by the unwavering belief that poetry is increasingly important as a pagan stronghold in which the language lives.
‘A riotous assembly! Both in performance and on the page, Phil Bowen’s poems have always been unique, and it’s great to see them gathered together.’ —Brian Patten
‘For those who say poetry that is deep and meaningful can’t be enjoyable, and those who think poetry that is enjoyable can’t be deep and meaningful, think again. Phil Bowen’s is. Reading him is like suddenly being asked to dance.’ —Selima Hill
‘Unusual and striking ... great fun to read.’ —Sophie Hannah
‘Lively, vital and accomplished.’ —Sylvia Kantaris
‘Phil Bowen’s poems crackle with vitality ... a skilful and pleasure giving poet.’ —DM Thomas
‘Auden-like public statements mixed with the bleakness of Larkin….dark comedy and irresistible humour combined with melancholic sensuousness.’ —Belinda Cooke
‘He segues the serious into the funny, abstractly suggesting and nudging emotions from his reader, his use of faded stars and stand-ups acting as vehicles, not subjects. There is also a poem here that is startlingly good called 'Tragedy', a touching and harrowing little ball of encapsulation that any poet would be proud of.’ —Tim Allen
‘Phil Bowen's Nowhere's Far, a New and Selected from the past two decades,is more solid,his poems identifiably about something,even if that something is often surreal or described in odd, unexpected ways. By turns serious and entertaining, Bowen can make a poem about anything, is an expert at the memorable one-liner’ —Jane Holland
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