Friday, May 18, 2012

Quick Review

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A pretty gift edition with charming new illustrations. Not quite the angry and or radical Clare that I've only recently discovered, just the gentle, rural bard of Clare's first fame. What makes this edition special, and either a lovely introduction to the poet, or a reminder to earlier readers of the poet's quiet gifts, are the charming new illustrations of Tom Pohrt.

Keep in mind, this is exactly not the kind of poetry book; it's a pretty little thing, full of bucolic little scenes of country life, illustrated with winning old stumps and woodland vignettes. As someone who grew up in something still very like the country, I've never much cared for the quaint vision thereof. I remember bugs, and manure and mean tempered old dogs and farmers who stank and spit tobacco and didn't much care for blacks and jews even though they'd met precious few of either.

Still, I've come to love and respect the poet, John Clare, and part, a considerable part of why is in these poems. He is not a sentimentalist. He is not a tourist out for a walk. He knows whereof he speaks, be it about baiting a badger or bugs, those "tiny loiterers in the barley's beard."

And then there's the genuinely attractive -- pretty, yes, -- but equally honest illustration of Tom Pohrt. His bees sting. His skies glower. The asymmetry of his trees tips them into Clare's poems and makes them right.

The result is a lovely little book.

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