In Island to Island, his third collection of poetry for Chatto, Gerard Woodward ventures into more hostile, less familiar territory. An Arabian desert, the moon, thinly-populated archipelagos are all visited in what emerges as an investigation into the nature of social space. A giraffe trapper finds that a successful trap must closely resemble a giraffe's own home; the 'suburban glass' of starter-home conservatories glazes and crysallises the lives of newly-weds. With his characteristic exuberance and ability to stand the world on its head, Woodward combines tichly imagined poems about half-invented lands with poetry that transforms the ordinary into the fantastical, where baths become oceans and ceilings lunar landscapes. Nor is the body exempt from this exploration of borders and limits. In one poem, two 'gurning' contestants find that they've overstepped some boundary of humanness and in 'The Madness of Heracles', a long retelling of the myth of the twelve labours, human strength is put to the test in a poem which evolves into a rhapsody of love, loss, toil and redemption.
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Island to Island is Gerard Woodward's third collection of poems for Chatto, following Householder (1991) and After the Deafening (1994). Described as an "investigation into the nature of social space"--"Architecture is politics/By other means" according to "Recent History"--the poems included here run amok through the mythologized city: "I saw the taxis/Flowing like treacle/Through the Kentish Styx" ("The Taxis"); "Paul lived/In the third alcove, lived/In a monumental mantelpiece" ("Revolution of the Viaduct").
A heavily emblematic, sometimes baffling, collection is brought together by an insistence on place, an attempt to make allegory out of the everyday which treads a (sometimes) fine line between symbol and sarcasm: "Couples become biographies/As they plan their future flower- beds" ("Suburban Glass"). In the tradition of a symbolic poetry, enamoured of myth, Island to Island is ambitious and sophisticated, challenging its readers to an exercise in decoding which, when it works, can turn the writing into a palimpsest. Central to that wager is "The Madness of Heracles", a modernisation and urbanisation of the 12 labours of Hercules--"That all dangerous dogs are/Rounded up and banished/To a lonely island. The Isle/Of Dogs"--which, occupying nearly half the volume, sets the tone: allusive, clever, witty, occasionally more muddied than veiled. --Vicky LebeauBook Description:
Third major collection from award-winning poetry Gerard Woodward. His first book for 5 years.
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Book Description Random House UK, 1999. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0701168692