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THE BLUE BOOK by Owen Sheers

THE BLUE BOOK

By Owen Sheers

Pub Date: Sept. 25th, 2000
ISBN: 1-85411-277-5

A first volume by a highly regarded Fijian-Welsh poet, recent winner of a Vogue award for young writers. Sheers writes in a crisp, clipped diction, full of internal rhyme and abrupt line breaks. Occasionally he trips over his own tongue in overstuffed lines that recall Hopkins at his most overwrought, but mostly these poems are lean and muscular, if somewhat mannered. The first half of the volume is death-obsessed in a way that’s a bit morbid in the work of a writer this young; the second half’s focus on the rise and fall of romantic and sexual passions seems more in character and rather more acutely observed. Running throughout is an ambivalent celebration of physical sensation, of an active life that takes in farming, swimming, and sex. Sheers may well be the first poet to write an effective piece about surfing (“Sea Reading”), and he is clearly a man of many islands, both Fijian and British—with everything that implies coming into play in his verse. He displays a strong sense of narrative, even though the poems here are all quite brief, and he is quite capable of a strong, original image (as in the Degas section of the poem “Gallery,” in which he writes, “a woman plays the cello of her hair”).

If he can shuck off the affectations of writing-program poetry, Sheers has the potential to become a major voice.