I Knew the Bride by Hugo Williams; All One Breath by John Burnside; Orphan Hours by Stanley Plumly - review by Peter Scupham

Peter Scupham

Dancing in the Dark

I Knew the Bride


Faber & Faber 80pp £12.99

All One Breath


Jonathan Cape 96pp £10

Orphan Hours


W W Norton 112pp £10.99

These three collections command admiration. Each poet concerns himself with first and last things and shows how we must link ourselves in chorus with other lives in our short patch of chequered light and shade; each has a style that is conversational, plain-spoken, but rich in content.

Hugo Williams is a funambulist, a conjuror, a smoke-and-mirrors trickster. He takes the most decisive of human experiences, the death of the loved and the knowledge of one’s own mortality, then dances the pressing dark away with a deft, wildly entertaining elegance. This is the Hugo who knows all about the show going on, and who, as an Eton fag in ‘A Boy Call’, untwists the note a member of Pop has given him to pass on, and reads: ‘What do you think of this one?/Get him to do the Charleston.’ He’s still doing variations on that Charleston; poems are threaded on musical waifs and strays. Nick Lowe’s ‘I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock ’n’ Roll)’ is the song holding together Williams’s celebratory threnody for his

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