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The work in this collection occupies the exciting middle ground between mainstream and avant-garde poetry. It pushes the monologue form further than it’s ever been before, featuring the history of the beard recounted to a headless cavalier, a sibyl doomed to hairdressing in perpetuity, and an academic obsessed with the power of nineteenth-century barnets. The collection also contains a gastronomic edge, with a eulogy to the pie, an incident from World War One recounted through a tansy-cake, a diatribe against cucumbers, and an elegy for Pontefract’s pomfret cakes. A series of poems engages with the writer’s northern background, but without a flat cap or a greasy whippet in sight.
‘Rowland is unafraid to use both language itself, and his observations of life generally, in unexpected new ways. He sets a strong group of poems in Eastern Europe, with some notable nuances; and there's often an intriguing obsession with food, which can make objective correlatives for anything from Fascism down to life's most local details. The poetry's texture recalls John Ashbery, and maybe originally Ezra Pound, both uniquely exciting originators.’ —John Powell Ward
‘Poems such as ‘A History of the Beard’, ‘Damrak’ and ‘Kwak’ are adventurous: they really push the boat out and make me sit up and take notice. The poems are fascinating and make me want to read and re-read. ‘Scallops’ and ‘The Cake’ are a whole new take on ‘war poetry’. They are significant and powerful.’ —Jeffrey Wainwright