Advance Book Review: Poetry in the UK: New Lyrical Ballad & Other Poems

A Remarkable Poetry Experience!

I am very pleased to share my advance review of Archery in the UK: New Lyrical Ballads & Other Poems by Nick Reeves and Ingrid Wilson. The book is set to be released by Experiments in Fiction on February 1, 2023. Please go to Experiments in Fiction for more information about the book and its inspiration.

Speaking of appreciation for inspiration . . .

My Review

Archery In The UK: New Lyrical Ballads and Other Poems by Ingrid Wilson and Nick Reeves was a lesson in reading and experiencing poetry for me. I’d never read a collaborative poetry collection before, and I began reading with a false assumption: that each poem would be attributed to one poet or the other.

Disabusing myself of this false assumption then raised the question of whether both poets wrote every poem together, or whether the collaboration was a matter of curation. As I continued to read, I had even more questions. Were the poems speaking to each other in a call-and-response kind of way? Was there a narrative arc to this series of poems that was supposed to tell a love story of two people? Who were these people? What was the chronology of their story?

About halfway through my first read of the collection, I realized that my questions were irrelevant to the experience of reading the poems, and by asking them, I was denying myself the full experience of each poem, both physically in my gut and emotionally in my heart.

Even worse, my questions denied the speakers of these poems their rightful, singular identities, not to mention the identity of the collection as a whole: a nuanced, lyrical meditation on love, intimacy, absence, and longing, how these emotions are experienced and how they are expressed.

I found the poems to have been written by poets both adept at their craft and well-versed in British Romanticism. I was particularly impressed by the formal poetry, which includes pantoums, sonnets, ballads, and the notoriously difficult cadralor. While recognizable as formal verse, these poems read smoothly and naturally, including their use of rhyme.

As the front matter indicates, the collection “began as a quest to write a contemporary homage to the Lyrical Ballads [but] became something quite different . . . .” While the poems do move away from The Lyrical Ballads as the collection progresses, the collection as a whole remains true to the spirit of Romanticism, with its themes of finding beauty in the everyday, Nature as a palliative and inspirational force, and the passions of the human heart.

For example, “Winter Love” begins with an ordinary night:  “The glitter of frost lit up the sleeping land/while in the terraced houses, children slept.” This winter night then becomes transcendent: “The choir of angels tuned up like a band/piping their song of joy . . . .”

What I most appreciated about this poem–which held true for the entire collection–was its strong emotion unabashedly expressed–yet never crossing the line into florid:

“. . . for my heart that night had been transformed from a vessel of stone
into an organ pumping pure delight
………………………….
all through my body, all throughout my veins
stirring to life, the wild elixir ran . . . . ”

In contrast, and perhaps ironically, “Winter Love” ends with simple language in a direct address to the lover. This unexpected juxtaposition was an effect I found incredibly moving: “And so, I wrote down these brief lines to you/daring to dream that you might feel it too.”

Leitmotifs of birdsong, arrows, water, and the dream state weave in and out of the poems, just as the lovers’ thoughts of one another are woven into their daily existence:

“Sober on the old red sofa
Listening to Drinking in L.A.
Scent of Cumbrian Juniper.
Her arrow rives the wintered bay.” (“Archery in the UK”)

The nature of poetry and the speakers’ relationship to it is also woven into the fabric of Archery in the UK, as can be seen from one of my favorite poems in the collection, “St. Mary’s II”:

“Weaving poetry, spiralling throughout our lives
telling tales of the townspeople, husbands and wives
and their children who play in the rockpools below
singing songs of the past, to the future we grow.”

Each time I encountered one of these observations on poetry, I felt a little jolt–first of recognition, then of joy, then of hope.

In the end, reading Archery in the UK left me with a strong feeling of saudade that stayed with me long after I’d finished the book–which is the best recommendation I can give to encourage other readers to experience this remarkable volume of collaborative poetry for themselves.

Readings

To best get the feel of this emotionally resonant collection, listen to Ingrid Wilson and Nick Reeves read selections from the book.

Purchase Links

For purchase links on the February 1st launch day, go to: https://experimentsinfiction.com

123 thoughts on “Advance Book Review: Poetry in the UK: New Lyrical Ballad & Other Poems

  1. I enjoyed your review, Liz. Like you, my initial assumption was that each poet would have written separate poems from their collaborator. Theirs is an interesting concept. Very nice review.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I was struck by your sincere point that the swell of emotions the poetry evoked stayed with you long after the read. I agree with you that response is the highest recommendation.
    Thank you, Liz, for this comprehensive review.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I love how your thoughts about the poems and the collection morphed as you read, Liz. Collaborations can’t help but spark our wonder and awe, and your conclusion to simply let the poetry be was lovely. The style and forms sound more formal than what I’d usually choose, but it’s quite beautiful. I listened to both readings and was riveted. Thanks so much for sharing, and I look forward to this captivating collection.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Diana! I usually don’t gratitate toward formal poetry either (except tanka and haiku). I’m very glad I made an exception in this case. My experience reading the book was unlike any I’d had before, so I just had to share it! I agree that Ingrid and Nick’s readings were mesmerizing. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.

      Liked by 4 people

  4. Wonderful, authentic review! I always appreciate a reviewer who conveys their reading experience, their many thoughts and feeling. Contemporary lyrical poetry is rare these days, so I also enjoyed the oral readings you linked for us. I want to read/hear more! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

      1. You’re welcome, Liz! I read some poetry, I guess — mostly the often-excellent verse of various WordPress bloggers. (Including yourself. 🙂 ) And when I majored in English in college, I read quite a bit of poetry. But I’m no poetry expert. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a beautiful review Liz. I really like the idea that even though it’s a collection of poems they should all be appreciated for their own individual merits.
    And what a great title, it does suggest at some sort of anarchic undertone! I’m interested to find out more about the poets.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. What an excellent review. The book sounds complicated, like a commitment when a reader chooses to pick it up. The title got my attention, about archery, because I am researching that for my current WIP. Thanks for the fascinating intro.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Liz, thank you for your exceptional analytical review of ‘Archery in the UK’ (a beguiling title and I want to learn more!) It was fascinating how you approached this while still intent on the collaboration and I am sure I would be the same. Who wrote what? Did they write one poem together? Yet, the poetry took over and carried you to new realms! The variety of poetry types sounds incredible, the examples quoted are exquisite and you have left me intrigued and longing to learn more!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I know that you said that the concept detracts from the experience of the individual poems, but I find the idea of one poem calling to the other quite interesting. Thanks for the wonderful and well crafted review, Liz.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Liz this is a complete review. Your words and mention of what you expected to read and then letting go of expectations to then delving into the heart of the book touched me tremendously.
    I’m sure the authors appreciate this lovely review. As do I— as do I. Thanks for sharing. Blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Liz, I continue to learn more about poetry from you than I ever did in school. Thanks for a warm and educational review that reminds me of all poetry can do.

    Liked by 2 people

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