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Will You Walk a Little Faster? by Penelope Shuttle review – an ode to London

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On the occasion of her 70th birthday, Shuttle reflects on the city, contemplates her place in it and leads us to see it with fresh eyes

Penelope Shuttle need not walk any faster – as this, her 14th collection, demonstrates. It is the gentle pace that captivates in her poems. And what a phenomenal poet she is (she has recently celebrated her 70th birthday). She has an unbossy, contemplative, unmistakable voice. She leads you quietly and helps you see things – London especially – afresh. There is nothing stale about the way she writes, although she is thinking about what it means to be older. She reflects on the city, its present moment and history – its bones. The past is there, almost palpable, and the dead, too – only just beyond touch and sight. She salutes London while resisting its metropolitan speed. Once part of a celebrated working duo with her late husband, the poet Peter Redgrove, his absence is strong enough to be a presence here. This is a volume that combines sorrow with an oddball wryness – an unusual mix. Shuttle implausibly casts herself as a relic, and in a comically sympathetic poem set in Waitrose, Balham, measures her time against the nonstop pace of the supermarket. There is scarcely time to complete a sentence:

“In Waitrose Balham
I’m sure I’m bust
and broke
past my sell-by”

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