Larksong Static: Selected Poems 2005 - 2020
Selected from his three collections and various pamphlet publications, Larksong Static offers a first synopsis of Martin Malone’s work so far. From his resounding alliances of memory and geography in The Waiting Hillside, through the complicated emotional landscape and fine-art sensibilities of Cur, to the brilliantly achieved cultural memory work of his Great War sequence, The Unreturning, this selection captures a poet staking serious claim for his significance to the contemporary scene.
Iconoclastic, playful and inventive, Malone’s third collection is an audacious attempt to rejuvenate the vernacular of Great War poetry. Ghosts of the Vortex begins a remarkable Great War diptych in which the later dissenting voices of The Unreturning parley with its more traditional elegiac forms. Picking up the neo-modernist mantle of Geoffrey Hill’s early work, the prose poems of The Unreturning represent a breath-taking sequence of merciless hymns to our cultural obsession with the First World War. In it, the self-revelatory instincts of the Great War trench lyric become enmeshed in dialogue with present day contexts in an effort to create meaningful acts of witness for ‘a nation /with so many memorials but no memory’. The result is a collection of great ambition and originality, representing a serious achievement in an area already overwritten by generations of poets during the past century.
Cur makes resounding alliances of memory and geography that are stretched into weird, provisional registers and shapes. It is a time-torn book shot through with loss and what lies beyond. Everywhere the eye of the painter intrudes; his struggle to beat the day’s disappearing light, to capture the voices of its liminal characters both within and beyond his canvas, from Edwardian landladies to visceral couplings, a Syrian rebel or doomed watercolorist; from the grieving lover or sick mother to bee-dressed brides or a tourist Capote.
The Waiting Hillside is a paean to time and memory; a collection haunted by the ghosts of undead moments that walk the here-and-now of our everyday lives. From the emotional panorama of the opening poem ‘At Uffington’, an arc is traced through masculinity, love and family history rendered through the physical and emotional landscapes inhabited by the poems. Time and again throughout this collection, “we rejoin the moment/ driving deep the flint of it into/ the chalky quick” of modern times. Martin Malone charts frankly, the journeys with unreliable maps that constitute the emotionally-layered complexities of 21st century life and relationships.
“My road is north/ My road is north”, writes Martin Malone, but in fact his landscapes are not only the Brontes’ and Plath’s Pennines but England’s deep south, Greece Arabia and elsewhere. He ranges in time from the ancient world of the white horse of Uffington to bingo halls, and from Avebury’s ancient past to the courteges of Wootton Bassett. His poems are bold in subject and style; his voice never murmurous but full-throated and confident.
As sort of ‘bonus disc’ to go with Cur, ‘Prodigals’ is an eclectic snapshot of Martin Malone’s work at a particular moment in time; gathering together some of the disparate strands of a versatile and ambitious poetry. Poems from an abandoned collaboration knock alongside commissions, a short sonnet sequence, out-takes and the great collapsed star that is The Moult of Ghosts, to create a short collection all the more attractive for its off-mic frankness and verve.
'Martin Malone follows his debut collection, Cur, with a well themed and chosen pamphlet “prodigals”, which recalls that collection in part but is mainly a complete departure from it… As ever, this poetry is rich with metaphor, association and allusion, all effortlessly handled…' Stand, (205) 109
CAROL ANN DUFFY
“Malone is a Romantic at heart, feeling the landscape, living the language, catching the drift.”
“Any attempt to forge a new nature poetry in the English lyric tradition is a bold undertaking, but Malone's sensibility and assurance make this possible. His voice is distinctive, his eye clear and sure, and his ability to change pace and direction in a poem makes his work both elegant and surprising.”
"I have always been impressed by his work whenever I have encountered it, so it was a treat to see this nicely produced collection from Shoestring Press. As a poet he is acutely conscious of the energies that animate us … Malone still jumps with a ‘jazz’ of his own, and is more than capable of ‘Keep[ing] the beat’ with the best."
ENVOI Issue 174, October 2016.
“His poems are bold in subject style; his voice never murmurous but full-throated and confident.”
The Waiting Hillside…must rank among the most sensitive and insightfully touching works on the relationship between a man, a woman and a boy in recent poetry.”
NEW WRITING CUMBRIA