Being Alive

An Amazon book review for the poetry Anthology of the same title.

Is a rich compendium of poems,
Of all manner and range of style and depth.
Depth of form, structure, depth of sentiment,
Depth of meaning, and sheer accomplishment.
Some are hauntingly beautiful, while some
Are funny or sad, angry or whimsical,
Provocative, or otherwise moving.
Some are trite, if by intention or not.
And a very few are just plain silly.
Some penetrate through to the limpid heart
Of our human existence, with light, bright,
Gentleness and simplicity. Others
Explore those darker human truths, with savage
And near unbearable intensity.

Some you read and re-read, but get no more
From them than was apparent first time round.
While others will take several readings
For the mind to crystallise their meanings.
A few will gain profundity with each
Re-reading, while others will appear less so.

But what I could not help but noticing,
And you may call me old fashioned for this,
But the book´s final poems are extracts
From Eliot's masterly Four Quartets.
The ones that perhaps you have encountered,
About, my end being in my beginning,
And how we arrive at the place from where
We started and know it for the first time.
It was as though, for the rest of the book,
I had been listening to light music
On Radio 2, but had switched now to
Radio 3, right to the most solemn
And majestic moments of Mahler´s 8th,
With a thousand voices piled like angels,
Onto whole civilisations, rising
And falling, in the titanic thunder of
Huge organ chords that take the breath away.

So, while this book is filled with good poems,
Useful poems that will undoubtedly
Help us to navigate our lives and days
With more of hope, more calm and dignity.
With perhaps, a little more grace under
The pressure that comes to each from all sides.
Simple, accessible, and above all,
Relevant poems, that just might win back
A disaffected audience, who left
Poetry behind with other remnants
Of tediously remembered schooldays.
These are not the kinds of poems that signal
Seismic shifts in the giant tectonic plates
That underlie history and culture,
As indeed the very greatest can be.

With this in mind, please read and enjoy.

Copyright © John Ferngrove 2009