Across these collections, by four poets born within six years of each other (one, Christopher Reid, has even written a poem on the subject of ‘Boomers’), certain preoccupations seem to recur: an interest in travel and migrations; a sharp awareness of the environment and the damage it has suffered; and an interest in ‘lateness’ and endings – making sense of the past while nervously awaiting the future.
Two long poems dominate Andrew Motion’s latest collection, Randomly Moving Particles. The title poem is a particular triumph: a fragmentary work that shifts between micro and macro scales of vision, encompassing the political, the personal and the planetary. He namechecks Brexit and Trump (‘false, lacking the normal signs of difficulty in thinking what/to say when performing the chosen word-stream’). At the same time, there is a thread of personal loss and grief that carries through from its opening lines: ‘That Christmas I ran through fire in London/carrying my old father across my shoulders’. Indeed, it’s the elegiac moments that are particularly affecting, as in the final image of his father: ‘his mind/he abandoned/while preparing to set his jaw/and turn his face to the wall’.
We have gestures to Larkin – ‘the friendly arrow-shower daily/of email