ALL SHOOK UP by Adrian Mitchell


Poems 1997-2000
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Mitchell, now in his late 60s, is something of a father figure and cult idol among the poetic Left in England. As he notes in his acknowledgments, his recent work has centered on theater writing for children, and that pastime has left its mark on his writing—if this collection is any evidence. There has always been a tendency in Mitchell’s verse towards the simplistic, the propagandistic, and the disposable, but those vices have usually been leavened by a genuine wit and warmth. Here, the personal warmth is undiminished, but most of the poems are not much better than greeting-card rhymes. Indeed, some of the occasional poetry here, marking such events as friends’ birthdays and the arrival of new babies, might well have come straight off the Hallmark shelf. Three notable exceptions serve as a reminder of what Mitchell is capable of. “I’m on the Train” is a snatch of overheard cell-phone blather, acutely observed and devastatingly funny. Mitchell’s parody of Larkin’s “This Be the Verse” (inspired by some poor soul who thought that the original said that Mum and Dad “tuck you up”) is a witty rejoinder to Larkin’s brutal misanthropy. And “Memo to an Architect,” the longest poem in the collection, is an expansive vision of the idyllic home, nestled in a continuum of several decades of the poet’s life. As for the rest, the subtitle accompanying the title poem says it all: “Adrian Mitchell has left the building.”

A pity.

Pub Date: April 30th, 2001
ISBN: 1-85224-513-1
Page count: 128pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2001