We are still here on earth, and with a troubled sense of wonder Jeffrey Wainwright's new collection acknowledges life's sufficiency. The poems evoke Ruskin as writer and artist, his insistence on precision, the thing seen in fullness rather than the seer, the object rather than the subject in the foreground. Ruskin: 'the best drawing-masters are the woods and hills'.
The poet addresses old friends, with whom he's grown up and then old. He engages them in meditations which include their past, the worlds in which they were taking shape – a shape that is now them, old men rich in language and in heart. They have not lost direction but fare forward, eyes focused on what’s there.
These are not 'the other poem' which goes too far. 'The sea is close by/as it says in the other poem–/but here it is really true.' The poet in small things, in the indefinite article, finds a pattern; he still looks for the plan, if there is one, which he cannot quite give up believing in. Here on Earth ends with a poem on his father's experience of growing old, and a 'Seascape from Holly's Photograph': Holly, his daughter, in Australia, another world to which he has entry, but only as a visitor. Time foreshortens prospects, but while there's breath, eyesight, language and imagination, there is also conscience, fear, thought, and – still – desire. We are at a beginning.