Title: The Compass Dances
Author: Michael Pickering
Page Count/Review Word Count: 338
Disclaimer: While I aim to be unbiased, I received a copy of this for free to review.
This book is an interesting one because it spans an entire lifetime – what we have here is Michael Pickering’s selected poetry, spanning from 1955 to 2015. The author himself certainly has a strong set of credentials – he’s a graduate of University College in Oxford, as well as several other universities, and he even taught English and applied linguistics in Finland for 27 years.
Now, this isn’t necessarily the type of poetry that I’d typically go for, but it was still an interesting enough read. One thing that I would say is that it’s the sort of poetry that tries to flaunt the author’s education, something which is mirrored later on in the book with the inclusion of a number of self-reflective essays that the author wrote about his work. He also uses far too many footnotes, at least in my opinion – it hampers the reader’s ability to draw their own conclusions, which is what good poetry is all about.
Still, as you’d expect from someone who spent a lifetime writing poetry, there’s also a lot here to interest and to tantalise the reader, especially if we’re talking about a reader who loves words. Whilst it wasn’t necessarily my cup of tea, I did have to admire the skill with which the author works words to his advantage. True, it often felt like you were reading the intellectual equivalent of dad jokes, with plenty of half-developed puns, but there were also moments of clarity where the author was able – with just a few, short words – to communicate a sense or a feeling.
Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this unless you’re a serious fan of poetry – it can be pretty heavy, especially to someone who only reads prose, but it can also be rewarding if you stick with it. I’ll leave it up to your judgement.