Return by Minor Road in The Poetry Review

The Poetry Review is the official journal of the UK Poetry Society. It’s a trailblazing journal, currently edited by Emily Berry, that publishes new and exciting work quarterly. It’s an eagerly awaited thump on my doormat. It was especially interesting to see John Greening’s review of Return by Minor Road in the spring edition.

While he takes issue with some of the quieter aspects of the book, he has some very heartening things to say too:

Heidi Williamson came to prominence with her striking second collection… Her new book is different, but again has a theme, although not one to ease any anxieties…

…the sense of something brewing is well sustained. In ‘Cormorant’, the “Run-hide-fight […] active shooter drill” taught to American schoolchildren is transferred to the bird of the title, which in turn represents the poet’s own conflicted feelings.

There is considerable formal variety in this section (allegory in ‘Loch Occasional’, a prose poem, and an apt ‘erasure’ of her own early ‘Woodcutter’) and the last few poems are especially potent: ‘Fugitive dust’ is literally haunting, and there is a lovely group of three poems featuring hares.

The book’s central section, ‘Cold Spring: 13 March 1996’, is in effect a sequence about the shooting…. [Williamson] chiefly (and wisely) [presents] us with aspects of what she herself apparently experienced, using shock juxtaposition in the first two poems, then deliberately banal narrative… and later elegiac anaphora…

The experimental use of space deployed so brilliantly in ‘The Case’ (Williamson’s witty sequence in The Print Museum) is here given serious work to do, the lacunae of ‘Cold Spring’ expressing how everyone is lost for words. This puts enormous pressure on the words that remain, but by and large Williamson achieves the necessary Arvo Part-like intensity…

Return by Minor Road (an excellent title) is admirably constructed, and…it is a book Heidi Williamson was destined to write.

The full review is in the print edition of The Poetry Review. 

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