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Todd Swift
Seaway
Salmon Poetry €15.00
Review by Catherine Woodward

 

.....Seaway, a collection of new and selected poems by Todd Swift, has come out at the perfect time in the poet’s career. It follows on from Winter Tennis - a collection of poems from the man at forty - that grey area of hindsight where Swift, in his element, tugs on the strings of his past with a multiplicity of different ways to inhabit them as granted by the position of his age. In his new poems we see him extending (while tugging ever tighter) into even greyer areas which spill right out of the conscious concerns of life and into questions beyond what we know of as the immediately human and (perhaps more importantly) what we think we know about the processes of poetry, all contradicted by Swift’s delightful turns into abstract reality. With a thorough, steady eye and, as ever, a capacious mind, Swift progresses into identity crises, the miracle of human existence, as well as the nature of and how we perceive and relate that existence.
.....Swift has, over many years, succeeded in constructing the right context to roam these fields; there is an impression when reading through the collection that his poetic career has been building up to this point, moving through a steady incline of levels to this one. Each of his collections has held on to a universal human root, while expanding outwards to a new experience or something bigger, paving the way for another study, another closer, more careful and deeply moving look at things. The editor’s very sensitive choice of poems consequently directs us steadily, easily and consolably to the current ending point of his recent work through great instances of Swift’s talent, poems such as Water, Running, A Ceremony of Carols at Cripplegate, Emperor and Gentlemen of Nerve. The excellent selection of poems elegantly maps Swift’s movements as he traverses from one upheaval to another throughout his four main works, doing a tidy justice each of them.
.....Just like the poems’ themes, Swift’s style in his new works also seems to have outgrown something of his others. The familiar style that appears in many forms throughout the selected poems is still, perhaps not subconscious, but looking over the shoulder of these new poems, containing them and keeping them at that cool, simple manner, that has been intensifying the subject’s of Swift’s poetry for so long.
.....Managing to maintain this manner Swift pushes us through one image, one concept, tirelessly into another while masterfully holding onto the thread of the start, demonstrating an untiring desire to open up the platform of thought, observation and of course a semi-dark playfulness with the reader. The Forties for example tumbles eloquently and mystically to its point while One Hundred Lines falls into one metaphor after another, mirroring the process of writing poetry. There are also, as in For the Camlots, poems with an unassuming economy of words used to astounding effect, while elsewhere Swift’s familiar voice which trips the reader off into a puzzle (such as his two portentous villanelles or Seaway itself) to the effect that you are guided in, and once in the middle, are obliged to unravel, unpick and expand, go past an unspecified boundary just as the poet himself has in writing these new pieces.
.....A challenge but rewarding; as for the old poems, they have been delicately handled with a sensitive attention to Swift’s talents and the subtle movements of his career that have made him much admired and much enjoyed.

 

 

 

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