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Birdsong on Mars by Jon Glover

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The teasing title poem of this book is about weather. Rain falls, wind cracks its cheeks as in Macbeth; the noises are drops like kisses falling, 'fallen into birdsong on Mars'. What would it sound like, be like, to hear it? The poem wants to know what it can't yet know. But as the book proceeds, the poet - on a human heath, tormented by loss - hears something like it, unearthly sounds on a planet without atmosphere, sound making quite another kind of sense.

Jon Glover wrote most of the poems in this collection before his wife's sudden death from cancer in 2019. He developed the themes and fragmenting style of his previous book, Glass is Elastic (2012), where language was always quizzing itself and how it might relate to the actual and the historical world. Intense, playful, unpredictable, the poems surprised. Here, in the disturbing environments of Upstate New York, Calgary Bay or his Bolton front room the poet confronts illness (his own), hospitals (his visits) and wonderful ambulances (his transports). He resists attempts to see hints or destinies.

Then bereavement throws up an actuality of a different order. The collection ends with a mock-sonnet sequence, written during the pandemic, in which the poet tries all the doors and windows to find her, to speak with her - love poems where love has not changed but its circumstances have. 'Will I want ever to get out of this place - the past of the poems in this book?' the poet asks. There are no answers, yet.

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