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May 21 , 2010

Nine Lessons From The Dark


Adam Thorpe's fourth collection continues his engagement with history: the living continuum that connects us with our near and distant past, nourishing and illuminating our present. Here are traces left of presence: Indian scratchings on rock, the nail-marks of destroyed frescoes, spoken fragments of war memories - petroglyphs that function as both memorials and re-awakenings, traceable with the finger of the imagination. And here, too, are images of the stilled, the stopped life: a snowed-up village, the paralysed victim of motor-neurone disease, a soft drink fermented in an old village cafe.

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Who was Robin Hood? Romantic legend casts him as outlaw, archer, and hero of the people, living in Sherwood Forest with Friar Tuck, Little John and Maid Marian, stealing from the rich to give to the poor - but there is no historical proof to back this up. The early ballads portray a quite different figure: impulsive, violent, vengeful, with no…

From this rueful equilibrium of mid-life, Thorpe circles his own personal history, allowing regret and anticipation their Janus-like say. These are erudite, generous poems, formally versatile yet rich in startlingly original observation and a natural lyric grace. Performing his unique archaeology on lives lived, Adam Thorpe once again displays the range of his imagination and the depth of his humanity.

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