Alice Oswald’s Latest Collection of Poems

Leaf Arbuthnot at the TLS:

Formally, aesthetically, “Tithonus” is a remarkable work. But it is made even more remarkable by its language. Trapped in his decaying body as day knits itself around him, Tithonus notices all. At first, the “bleak shapes of last efforts of / the night”. A little later, “bodiless black lace woods” peopled with songbirds asking one another “is it light is it light”. Later still the “whisper of a grasshopper scraping / back and forth as if working at rust”. The features of dawn concatenate and though Tithonus has seen them all before (and will see them all again), he cannot help but testify to the beauty of breaking day, with its “peach-pale air” and its rustling solitudes. At one point, a lone snail “pokes out of sleep too feelingly / as if a heart had been tinned and / opened”. It is a weird image, ghoulish and frightful, but a moving one.

The two major themes that fill the “pipe-work” – in a phrase from the first poem here – of Falling Awake are classical subjects and nature. Without the buttress of a private or grammar school education readers would not necessarily know who Tithonus is or what resonance the River Hebron has (it features in the superb “Severed Head Floating Downriver”, about Orpheus being torn to pieces by Maenads).

more here.