John Stammers: Stolen Love Behaviour

A volume from 2005 which I think I received when I was in the Poetry Book Society. Hadn’t touched it.

Definitely a voice new to me, and largely very successful. The usual few poems that I don’t understand [and about which I, as usual, oscillate between “therefore pretentious bollocks” and “perhaps if I read them again / was cleverer…”].
Last night a friend {note to future self or biographer: Matt} picked it up and asked for an example of a good poem: I showed him La Siesta, a beautiful hymn to the pain and joy of life. Its last lines

It is then I should tell them that the Earth
is an original happiness, an inward impulse,
like an unprecedented temptation,
composed of both ardour and renunciation,
a giving up and a giving in, a slow love-potion

encapsulate much of the whole collection, about rhythm and love, particularly, it seems, illicit love, brief encounters, adultery.

As for form, sometimes he experiments with rhyming couplets, elsewhere with verse deliberately designed to avoid form (lots of enjambment breaking up the lines); these diversifications, as it were, work less well for me than his default light free verse, for example in the central sequence “Closure”, but sudden bursts of prose can be effective, as in the last line of “Nom de Guerre”:

I have lost the ability to imagine winter.

(He often ends poems with such first-person reflections.)

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