Of Mutability

From The Guardian:

Of-Mutability “Nought may endure but Mutability,” wrote Shelley, joining an imposing line of English poets to have tackled this theme of perpetual change, including Spenser, Shakespeare, Marvell and Wordsworth. Jo Shapcott's new collection – her first in 12 years, barring the Rilke translations of Tender Taxes – meets the term and its history head-on, even going so far as to call itself Of Mutability, a nod towards the grammar of those predecessors as well as their preoccupations. The excellent title poem, a deceptively casual sonnet, acts as something of a tissue sample for most of the book's concerns, from the mutations of cells to the disruption of the seasons, in a voice as mutable as the phenomena it describes, speaking sympathetically in the year 2004 to those who “feel small among the numbers. Razor small”, and suspect the pavement might be about to open under their feet.

Curiously, many of the poems seem more interested in equilibrium than mutability: those moments when opposing forces of change match or negate one another. Bubbles and droplets, which depend upon a perfect balance between internal and external air pressure to maintain their surface tension, bear much of the emblematic weight, appearing literally in a fountain or a stream of piss, or as metaphors for physical experience: “My body's / a drop of water”, “the soap film is my skin”. Even the poems themselves can feel like bubbles – formal, delicate, trembling with immediacy – and it seems that Shapcott craves the clarity or guilelessness these metaphors permit: “I breathe in and become everything I see”.

More here.