Planet Online

Steve Griffiths reviews
Love Songs of Carbon
by Philip Gross

Love Songs of Carbon

Bloodaxe, £9.95

There is an abundance of poems here that I want to spend time with. Gross has a multi-faceted intelligence that welcomes you in. He’s a scientist poet, reflecting the truth that anyone of imagination who wants to engage with his or her surroundings needs to try to grasp, and internalise, some of the astonishing discoveries of this epoch. The range and depth of his playfulness are without parallel, seen through both the simplicities and complexities of a child’s eye, and that of a man coming into age with a generosity that is both empowered and empowering.

The Love Songs of Carbon range from the cosmic to the sub-cellular, stopping on the way for clear-eyed and sustained meditations on ageing, on his own human love, and on an extraordinary range of phenomena, material, cultural and abstract: mould, chess, a General Theory of String, peat, Brownian Motion, sleep, ironing; and sex in the bushes, which contains a moment of tender hilarity. Incongruities are convincing in a way that renders them inevitable. I particularly enjoyed how the unpromisingly titled ‘Several Shades of Ellipsis’ embeds a beautiful erotic poem. Indeed, the love poems form part of the much bigger canvas implied by ‘carbon’, of being alive in the world.

‘Blue Dot’ is a synthesis of this. It begins with a moment of familiar, intimate half-consciousness precisely expressed:

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