Andrew Motion's new collection (his first since Public Property in 2002) offers a ground-breaking variety of lyrics, love poems and elegies, in which private domains of feeling infer other lives and a shared humanity - exploring how people cope with threats to and in the world around them, as soldiers, lovers, artists, writers and citizens. The conversational tone and formal variety of these poems both shapes and diversifies their response to loss and its inevitabilities. Here are poems about the last surviving veteran of the trenches; poems which work with found materials drawn from the contiguous worlds of prose; poems which elicit the parallel lives glimpsed in paintings, or the other lives of birds, trees and weather (as of an ordinariness just out of reach). An unemphatic evenness of handling, in the detailing of ordinary destinies, alternates with capacious panoramas of longing and summation, and the collection ends with a remarkable group of directly autobiographical poems about the life and times of the poet's father.
The bright October sun was half-way down the western sky one Saturday afternoon. Two-thirds of the Fall month had already gone, and the air was becoming fairly crisp in the early mornings. All around the forest trees were painted various shades of bri