Nine Arches have made an excellent choice with their publication of Tony Williams' second collection, The Midlands, after bringing out his playful and technically impressive pamphlet, All the Rooms of Uncle's Head in 2011. I was a big fan of his first collection, The Corner of Arundel Lane and Charles Street, but The Midlands speaks to me particularly as someone who grew up in Lincolnshire, on the border to Nottinghamshire, spent a lot of time in Derbyshire in my youth, and then lived in Nottingham in my late 20s. If there is a kind of landscape I would recognise as home, it is the one Williams describes here. There are not many poetry collections which name-check Newark on Trent, after all, and I was beguiled by Williams' imagining of what to me always felt like a strangely in-between region (not really the North, not the heavy industrial Midlands of Birmingham and the Black Country, certainly distinct from the South), with its moorlands, fens and small towns, its farmland sitting alongside re-purposed mills and a last few mines. Williams' poems are spaces for the imaginary exploration of place, meditating on the run-down, the defunct and the marginal. The poetic possibilities he finds there are considerable, but there is no dewy-eyed nostalgia on offer. Instead, Williams' language revels in the texture of the specific and situated. This is a collection I had looked forward to for some time and I was not disappointed. You can read some of the poems here.
Thursday, January 1, 2015
Happy New Year! To celebrate, here is the fifth and final instalment in my end-of-year round-up of collections I particularly enjoyed in 2014. Before I begin, and to follow the example of the excellent Dave Coates, a disclaimer is probably necessary. Two of my selections are published by Nine Arches Press. I not only consider Nine Arches to be one of the most interesting small presses around today, but I am also delighted that they will be publishing my own first collection, Arc in the autumn of 2015.