Reeling in the face of collapsing systems, of politics, identity and the banalities and distortions of modern living, Nick Laird confronts age-old anxieties, questions of aloneness, friendship, the push and pull of daily life. At the book’s heart lies the title sequence, a profound meditation on a father’s dying, the reverberations of which echo throughout in poems that interrogate inheritance and legacy, illness and justice, accounts of what is lost and what, if anything, can be retrieved.
Laird is a poet capable of heading off in any and every direction, where layers of association transport us from a clifftop in County Cork to the library steps in New York’s Washington Square, from a face-off between Freud and Michelangelo’s Moses to one between the poet and a squirrel in a Kilburn garden. There is conflation and conflagration, rage and fire, neither of which are seen as necessarily destructive. But there is great tenderness, too, a fondness for what grows between the cracks, especially those glimpses into the unadulterated world of childhood, before the knowledge or accumulation of loss, where everything is still at stake and infinite, ‘the darkness under the cattle grid’.