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Rosie Shepperd’s debut poetry collection, The Man at the Corner Table (Seren), crackles with the unexpected. The voice is one of urban sophistication; a merciless charm that teases and tempts us with sensual evocations of food and place. The reader is surprised with tastes, scents, colours and textures. There is a winning insistence on detail offered with an irony that blends into satire. The poems adopt a deadly seriousness to the business of comedy. In 'It isn’t just the under-floor heating that makes me lie down in the kitchen’, the poem explores the ineffable by sending it up in a domestic setting that subverts as it disconcerts. The gorgeous place settings of these poems are not just carefully delineated backdrops. They toy with our interpretations of ‘at table’. As in a Dutch master ‘tablescape’, they become symbolic of our relation to ourselves, to others and the world. These poems are exquisite meals, to be devoured amidst surprising intimacies, like the search for solace that is edging towards something more in ‘Balthazar Bakery, Spring Street, NY'. Others explore troubling scenarios of grief and loss, such as the heartbreak in ‘You all have lied…’. Sometimes the poems appear like postcards from beautifully observed moments of exile, as in ‘Chorinho’ – where the author is hounded and haunted by unease. As in Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘Questions of Trael’ there is artfulness in this unease, and an obligation to close observation that resolutely refuses to moralize. Formally, these are poems of skill and erudition in the way they voice themselves as objects of both desire and satire. Shepperd uses traditional forms of rhyme and metre; sestinas and sonnets. And she has evolved a strategy of varying line length and position that gives the poems a light and deceptively casual air. We are interrupted in our reading as we realize that we are staring at themes that are both vital and lethal: love, desire, grief and death. Like a secret recipe, the author’s technique is invisible, leaving us with poems whose flavors linger and become something that surprises and changes us.
Number of Pages: 72
Sub-Genre: English + Irish + Scottish + Welsh
Publisher: Paul & Co Pub Consortium
Author: Rosie Shepperd
Street Date: January 1, 2016
Item Number (DPCI): 248-10-3975
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