This marks Nick Drake's first full-length collection and includes work from his previously published pamphlet of poems entitled Chocolate and Salt
. The poet, whose name conjures impressions of detective fiction from the 1930s, lives and works in London. But the vamps and villains and heroes of Drake's poems are rather tarnished figures, past their primes, as dented and battered as the baggage with which they escaped in the middle of the night. They long for lives free of the extreme politics that have ensnared generations and brought ruin to their homelands amid "Europe's concrete jigsaw, time- and war-zones." This collection is principally a tribute to the long-suffering - from those no longer comfortable in their homelands to those not at home in their bodies to those unreconciled to their fates - who pack up their broken belongings or the tatters of their sanity, seeking an idyll, as the poet puts it, "on this asylum island." But the refuge Drake's varied characters seek is not an escape from
reason so much as a life-affirming flight toward
reason, an embarking upon a holiday from the confining ideologies of nondemocratic Europe. He draws the obvious parallels between the refugees from Nazi Europe in the late 1930s and Soviet Europe in the late 1980s. With subtlety and humor, Drake goes on in other poems to honor those who, like the woman "shrunk into a girl with silver hair," are slowly fleeing from life toward the unmapped realm of death.
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