Sometimes I’m lucky enough to buy a book of poems that is so compelling that, time allowing, I’ll have to read the whole collection in one go. This sort of collection transports me into another world (or worlds) so completely that everything else has to be put on hold. Books like this tend to confirm our essential ‘aloneness’ while making the world seem a less lonely place.
Here is John Berger writing about poems in his book ‘and our faces, my heart, brief as photos’
‘Poems…bring a kind of peace. Not by anaesthesia or easy reassurance, but by recognition and the promise that language is acknowledged, has given shelter, to the experience which demanded, which cried out.’
John Foggin’s new collection is a book full of such poems. I wanted to share my enthusiasm for the book and so I recently contacted a magazine editor friend of mine to ask if I could review it. I was somewhat relived when I found the book had already been sent for review. Why? Because I don’t really want to write an analysis of something I am still marvelling at. I just want to enjoy it! Also, this is a complex and lengthy collection and it would be very hard to do it justice in a 500 word piece. So instead I’ll write a few words here.
At 81 pages ‘Much Possessed’ travels far and wide, geographically, historically, spiritually, emotionally. It draws on biblical stories and figures to take on and re-imagine some of the great myths and stories from feminist and humanist perspectives, through eyes that have evidently seen much but are still lit up by the unfathomable mystery and joy of living in all its difficulty and wonder. Like D.H Lawrence’s incredible poem ‘Snake’, Foggin’s ‘Whether it cared or not’ and ‘A Dry Place’ are breath-taking challenges to theological dogma that are driven by a compassionate need to question what has been handed down.
This book is packed with poems of love, hope, celebration and endurance. It is articulate and illuminating, full of warmth, tenderness and toughness, exploration, courage, humility and humanity. Did I mention the craft involved? Well, can you imagine me being so enthused if it wasn’t a superbly crafted book of poetry? I’ve been carrying a copy around with me for a while now to ward off the darkness, both very real and of my own making. ‘Much Possessed’ is a superb achievement.