Like craning your neck from a seat in a theatre, looking at the glittering night city from a skyscraper, or watching Woody Allen filming across the street, Restricted View, sees every glimpse of a life as partial, as though the reader has just stumbled on a diary entry still being written, or a lovers’ scene, mid-conversation. In the messy chaos and tantalizing beauty of the city from London to Russia, Italy and New York, emotionally charged encounters replay, held in poetry’s present tense, or turned over and examined as closely as cheap jewels: the ‘remembered strings of amber beads/glinting from long passed market stalls.’
The poet picks her way around a tightrope temptation to use poetry like a diary (as she hints in the Writer’s Dairy) but the intensity of memories is matched, too, in the empathy found for vividly realised couplings in history, whether it be the child bride of a Medici tyrant in Florence, Mussolini’s long suffering mistress, Bernini’s angel statues in Rome or the Venetian art collector Peggy Guggenheim.
Always the ‘view’, like the tricksy cover portrait by contemporary artist Natasha Archdale constructed entirely of words, remains ‘restricted’. If at times, Cole seems far more figuratively naked than in her portrait, the book’s epigraph, about Evelyn Waugh’s famous gossip columnist Mr Chatterbox (who invented people to write about) hints too at the element of fiction there even in journalist Cole’s most seemingly autobiographical writing.
From Grazia to tell-all interviews and autobiographies of politicians and stars, in an age obsessed with candid details, Restricted View maintains the impossibility of knowing anyone’s ‘true’ story. The past and the present are improvised and improved, the moment that the poet picks up her pen, or, as in ‘The Writer’, is drawn back to her computer, its stand-by lights blinking in the night, like waiting land across the bay.
‘Olivia Cole makes her mark as a poet through the unforced romanticism of her conversational rhythms, as if she has found the most disarming possible way of going public with her diary. But there is an additional element that promises something else: an engagement with a history beyond her own. Figures from politics and the arts get into her poetry as characters, populating it with unexpected drama. This combination of a buttonholing personal voice and a curious engagement with a wider world gives her poetry an unusually rich play of tone, a reportorial lyricism that many older poets would find it hard to match.’ —Clive James
‘Olivia Cole’s poems overflow with likable qualities: exuberance, candour, brightness – of both spirit and intelligence – and curiosity. The auspices are excellent for this new poet.’ —Christopher Reid
‘Olivia Cole's is an intense, haunting voice, perfectly capturing psychical and physical states in some astonishing imagery; breaking the ice, taking a shower, blood seeping through a black and white world.’ —Anita Sethi
‘Open the anthology Tower Poets, edited by Peter McDonald (Tower Poetry, £5 from towerpoetry.org.uk), and there again, in Olivia Cole’s poems, the resolutely strong note rings straight out:
I stood in your shower, how many times?
Well, so many times ...
Olivia Cole is one of seven poets here, all associated with Tower Poetry, which emanates from Christ Church, Oxford, with the help of a legacy to the college. Everyday spoken rhythms, deftly used, are characteristic of most of these poets.’ —Derwent May
‘This impressive first book is concerned with the tentative nature of perspective.’ —Charles Bainbridge