Jane Blank reviews
What It’s Like To Be Alive: Selected Poems
by Deryn Rees-Jones
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.Sign in to read more
Jane Blank is a novelist and poet. Her first collection Naked Playing the Cello was published in 2003. Since then work has appeared in many anthologies including Imagined Greetings: Poetic Engagements with R.S. Thomas; in publications such as The Observer Magazine and Planet and has won prizes, for example from The Brontë Society and Poetry Wales. One of her unpublished poems was recently short-listed for the Bridport Prize.