London Grip Poetry Review – David Clarke

Poetry review – THE FIELD IN WINTER: Jean Atkin offers a few well-chosen words of praise for David Clarke’s latest collection

The Field in Winter 
David Clarke
Nine Arches
ISBN  978-1-913437-76-3

The poetry in David Clarke’s third collection is beautifully grounded and precisely wrought. Time and again I pencilled corners of pages to mark a poem I especially liked. The poems reflect with intelligence and humility on our human connection to the world, through many seasons and places. The title poem, in which ‘hedges shred black plastic’, then presses us humans into ‘a mire to suck you down/ and tan you in the land’s brown juice’. The field will forget us. ‘A blessing’.

Often in David Clarke’s poems, we are at the edge of being lost, of being ‘where the tarmac runs out’, and where lives (animal and human) are lived on the brink. There is a lot of weather, ‘sodden as fly-tipped mattresses’ –

If I wander much further now,
I might never be heard from again.  

I really liked the sensitivity of Clarke’s voice, and the way he shares his writerly curiosity with us. Many of these poems were written in Poland, and he lets us see the unfamiliar, and feel its uncertainty

We build a tower for you, stork,
to set our rickety luck on – 

Poem after poem is such a pleasure to read aloud – this poet’s ear for a balanced, musical line is one of the distinctive things about his work, as I recall from his previous collections.

Wine and echo and argument
roll from a doorway’s mouth of gold.

I should say, I have enjoyed hearing this poet read on a few occasions, and expressed to him my admiration for his work – but we don’t live near enough to have expanded on friendly poetry-acquaintance.

Finally, I should add that this collection is published by Nine Arches, who have truly excelled themselves with this richly coloured and elegant cover, and fine production values. Very much recommended.