Planet 225

Jane Blank reviews
What It’s Like To Be Alive: Selected Poems
by Deryn Rees-Jones

What's it Like to be Alive

Seren, £12.99

After spending time with a collection that spans decades, the reader forms a greater intimacy with a poet than with a novelist. Ranging through key stages in a poet’s life, a distinct voice emerges speaking directly to the reader, creating a unique and unfiltered intimacy.

In a novel, the writer operates behind the characters; it is their voices that dominate the reader’s relationship with a book. In Tess, it is not Hardy but his heroine that we remember; in Wuthering Heights not Emily but Heathcliff and Catherine we carry in our hearts. It is different, however, if we read Hardy’s or Emily Brontë’s verse. There the dominance of the characters they created in fiction – that filter of personae a novelist sneaks behind – is replaced by a powerful relationship directly between the poet and the reader.

This collection, What It’s Like to be Alive, is no exception. It is dominated by a first person narrator, often addressing a ‘you’ figure, which makes the book intimate, even when the poems are not overtly personal.

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