This collection of heart-catching poetry offers something a novel never can – a world of pure potential, with no beginning or end
Aside from a handful of close family members, novels are, without question, the things I love best in the world – so I was surprised to find myself struggling to name a single one from which I walked away with a feeling of hope. Joy, delight, satisfaction, comfort, solace – yes to all, in spades. Hope? Nope.
Why the omission? I’ve been turning the question over and the answer, I think, is this: novels are inherently temporal. Within the compass of their pages, they construct a facsimile of life as we experience it – of the forward motion of hours, days and years – but with the crucial difference that, as readers of the lives of others rather than participants in our own, they grant us knowledge of the end. “Endings,” said the novelist Sarah Moss in a recent interview, “are one of the great consolations of fiction,” and I think she’s right. Part of the attraction of novels is the reassurance of their narrative arc; the impression we get, reading them, that A leads inevitably to B and that, crucially, it does so for a reason.
and I pitched back not my old hard-pressed grin
but his own smile, or one I’d rediscovered.
Dear son, I was mezzo del cammin
and the true path was as lost to me as ever
when you cut in front and lit it as you ran …
roaring down the back of Kirrie Hill
and your two-year-old lungs somehow out-revving
every engine in the universe.
All that trouble just to turn up dead
was all I thought that long week. Now the thread
is holding all of us: look at our tiny house,
son, the white dot of your mother waving.