The Witching Hour by Brian D. Buckley

The Witching Hour by Brian D. BuckleyUnlike the compilers of some collections of poetry, who support their choices with an overarching theme or a long introduction explaining why these poems were gathered, Buckley is unafraid to choose poems on the simple rationale that he feels they are good. This produces a collection that is unashamed to admit that poets, like everyone else, are complex people who laugh and rage, cry and love.

This collection contains 25 poems chosen and revised by the author, spanning the last decade of his oeuvre. Although there is no single theme, Buckley has grouped them into three sections, Visions, lolz, and Searching, containing respectively uplifting, humorous, and speculative works.

The selection opens with Lift Off, a poem about rocketry. While it does contain some high-flown imagery, it is relatively simple, potentially tricking the reader into believing Buckley is a scientist who writes poetry. However, in the next poem, Anallegoria, he takes an idea and lets it run free, revealing that – whatever else he can do as well – he is a skilled word-smith. This shifting and merging of accurate description and linguistic playfulness continues throughout the collection.

Buckley is equally at home with varied verse forms. In poems such as Austromenock he delivers both an engaging narrative and a strong refrain and metre familiar from the works of Shelley and others; whereas in works such as Chomolungma he practically abandons form, producing an emotional gestalt free of intervening frameworks.

What would it be
to SEE these creatures?
Not to surrender, nor yet
to charge, brandishing creeds and anthems:
but to meet them with open sail,
a Beagle among their Galápagos,
taking notes and sketches –
and later,
stories for your daughters,
and maps to guide them
home?

-The Witching Hour

Although there is a correlation between Buckley’s choice of styles and his subject matter, he is happy to use serious formal structures for humorous ends. His lampoon of poetic declarations of love in The Bard to His Love, at Length is as amusing on repeated reading as on first experience.

However, it is in humour – perhaps the most serious of disciplines – that the collection seems weakest. Whilst they display the same skill in language as the rest of the selection, some areas begin to appear clever rather than genuinely witty on repeated consideration, rendering lolz less attractive to frequent visitation.

Interspersed throughout the collection are various black-and-white pictures, ranging from medieval woodcuts to Art Nouveau temptresses. Although the poems are fluid enough not to need a distraction, the addition of images adds a further aesthetic layer to the collection, adding to the sense that it is visually as well as emotionally interesting.

Overall I enjoyed this collection, and anticipate returning to it repeatedly over the years. I recommend it to readers who are looking for a selection of poetry that offers something for any mood, whether good or bad.

I received a copy from the author in exchange for a fair review.

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