Tuesday 7 June 2022

Review by Rosa Fernandez of "Spillway: New and Selected Poems" by Ian Pople


I confess I was unaware of Ian Pople’s work prior to reading Spillway, but in many ways that has allowed me to get to know the full range of his work with this collection, one that includes selections from his previous publications with the addition of some new poems. As this suggests, it is a large and engrossing series, and one I enjoyed gently meandering through. 

The first selection, from The Glass Enclosure, takes us all the way back to 1996, and from then to the present there are clear themes that return consistently. Nature and weather and place are all important in Pople’s writing and many of my favourite mentions were of trees, often named specifically as in ‘guava trees’ or ‘silver birches.’ Water flows in and throughout, hence the ‘spillway’ of the title, and you can definitely see the influence of Pople’s interest in American poetry with the wide landscapes that he describes.

Pople’s poems often explore and reference faith, with winter described as a ‘sacrament’ and numerous references to church, the Easter story, verses and lambs; in so doing the poems seem to take on a timeless quality. This, combined with the beautifully described bleaker landscapes, put me in mind of R. S. Thomas at times, although a sprinkling of names throughout indicate plentiful inspiration from others, particularly jazz musicians as in the poem ‘William Matthews’ about Charles Mingus.

Pople is well travelled, and Spillway begins with poems about Manchester and the Sudan and ends on the Khao San Road in Bangkok, visiting many other places in between; ‘Athens’ and ‘Giverny’ get their own poems. A life well lived and comprehensively documented, Spillway is a collection for all weathers, all places, and many appreciative readers.

About the reviewer
Rosa Fernandez is a slam-winning poet and sometime proofreader. She also enjoys wearing silly hats. 

You can read more about Spillway by Ian Pople on Creative Writing at Leicester here

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