For 2020, the StAnza Blog is hosting DURA – the Dundee University Review of the Arts – who as reviewers in virtual residence on the StAnza Blog will post excerpts from their selection of reviews of titles by poets on the StAnza 2020 programme, including this one in today’s blog. The full review can be read on their website at https://dura-dundee.org.uk/category/poets-stanza-2019-reviews/. Written by staff and students, DURA is keen to promote the diversity of artists and art forms in the UK context, supporting especially (albeit non-exclusively) independent cinema outlets, exhibitions, theatre, film and publishing.
Chris Powici, This Weight of Light, reviewed by Robert Middlemiss
This Weight of Light is Chris Powici’s second poetry collection. Its concern for the natural world is not too dissimilar to that of a number of his contemporaries such as John Burnside and Kathleen Jamie. Like them, he writes and seeks a greater understanding of the boundaries between the human and non-human. But where Burnside’s poetics shift more toward the social and political – consider All One Breath – Powici distinguishes his poetics by writing his reverence for the epiphanic moment. Where Burnside has a prominent, binding ecological thread, Powici is much more rooted in the phenomenological. His poems glimpse the natural, considering them in depth through immediate sensory responses. Those images crystallise as the volume progresses.
In his attentive observations, its clear that Powici relishes simplicity. Chance encounters are given importance but not in ways that might alienate readers. ‘The Otter Goddess’ places that animal in a heightened, religious position. The poem opens, ‘The otter goddess won’t hear our prayers’, immediately suggesting a failure in communication between human and animal. The poem remains largely observatory, congruent with the lyric mode; an almost childlike awe is articulated by an experienced voice:
All she knows is grace –
Cool thrill of tail-flick and fur-glitter
as she surges up the green depths
to sashay on the swell
... This collection’s title, This Weight of Light, and Powici's previous volume, Somehow This Earth, hint at an almost perpetual wonder at the surrounding world. For an enterprise so large, the poet exercises a deft hand... in a seemingly effortless state, belying their careful crafting. Powici’s writing is accessible, resonant read aloud...