Falling Awake by Alice Oswald
Published by Jonathan Cape
Published 7 July 2016
WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT
Alice Oswald’s poems are always vivid and distinct, alert and deeply, physically, engaged in the natural world. Mutability – a sense that all matter is unstable in the face of mortality – is at the heart of this new collection and each poem is involved in that drama: the held tension that is embodied life, and life’s losing struggle with the gravity of nature.
Working as before with an ear to the oral tradition, these poems attend to the organic shapes and sounds and momentum of the language as its spoken as well as how it’s thought: fresh, fluid and propulsive, but also fragmentary, repetitive. These are poems that are written to be read aloud.
Orpheus and Tithonus appear at the beginning and end of this book, alive in an English landscape, stuck in the clockwork of their own speech, and the Hours – goddesses of the seasons and the natural apportioning of Time – are the presiding figures. The persistent conditions are flux and falling, and the lines are in constant motion: approaching, from daring new angles, our experience of being human, and coalescing into poems of simple, stunning beauty.
From A Short Story of Falling
It is the story of the falling rain
To turn into a leaf and fall again…
WHAT I THOUGHT
This is my first time reading the poet. I chose this collection at random when browsing Amazon because I liked the title and cover.
I enjoyed Falling Awake but I didn’t love it. There are some good, strong poems here especially A Short Story of Falling, Severed Head Floating Downriver and Cold Streak. For the most part the poems are bland, pretentious and forgettable. Don’t get me wrong they are very pretty and well written with lots of abstract imagery which, for the most part adds up to nothing. I read a lot of poetry so I know what I like and what works for me. Falling Awake doesn’t tick all of the boxes for me. These are the kind of poems that alienate readers because you can’t make an emotional connection to them. I love poems that, in the words of Emily Dickenson, smash the frozen sea inside me. Falling Awake only chipped it a little bit. I also found it irritating that so many poems had odd spacing, no punctuation or capital letters. This does not make good poetry in my book. I would not recommend Falling Awake as I have wishy-washy feelings about it.