Guest Review: Pople On Boran

Ian Pople reviews

Pat Boran

The Next Life

Dedalus Press, £10.00

There is an interesting tension in this book between its overall opulence (it’s 100 pages in length and its approaches and techniques just as varied) and the often beguiling simplicity of its best poems.  In part that tension is controlled by Boran’s seeming effortlessness - Boran is a very fine technician - and it is also controlled by Boran’s clear-sighted perspective on the world. 

To my mind, the best poems in this book are where Boran responds with dextrous and beguiling simplicity to the things he has seen. As in ‘Skipping’, in which a girl is portrayed skipping outside his house for most of the morning.  In the course of the morning, the girl is ‘now with a friend, now with a whole gang of friends,/now on her own.’ The poem then moves into a single sentence which last the remaining twelve lines of the poem.  In the trajectory of the syntax, Boran moves the reader through a precise realization of how the girl is skipping, through attention to skipping rhymes ‘no small girl ever really understands’, through a visit from the ice-cream van, to the adroit sense of the girl’s at-one-ness with the act of skipping.  Such is Boran’s dexterity with syntax that the reader is calmly and firmly held in the movement of both line and narrative. 

Elsewhere, Boran has the time and control to weave a much more metaphysical construction.  In ‘A Dog’, for example, Boran speculates not so much on humanity’s relationship with the dog, but on the way the dog witnesses the worlds that humans place them in, ‘…these damp-smelling angels/who suffer our moods and our scoldings/and still, in the end - / the table cleared and the lights turned off -/ who lead us out one final time/to stand in darkness/ and wait, looking up/like shepherds beneath/the canopy of stars.’  In Boran’s poem, dogs have an unusual and beguiling equality to humans, gently and unfailingly tolerating the weaknesses and foibles of their human ‘masters’. 

Such a comment might be true of Boran’s writing; though that would be to characterise him as puppy-eyed and, possibly sentimental. Boran has a loving, almost mystical acceptance of the world he finds around him.  But Boran’s technical control is so firm that he is never sentimental even whilst exploring sentiment.  There is a wholly enviable inevitability about Boran’s poetry.

Ian Pople


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