January by Sarah Barr

(5 customer reviews)


The wonderful new collection from Sarah Barr


The wonderful new collection from Sarah Barr

Award winning poet, John McCullough writes:

“Sarah Barr writes subtle poems that probe the edges of uncertainties, the details of objects and landscapes gradually revealing her speakers’ unease. The disjunctions in the title piece evoke the sudden leaps of a mind actively thinking, the white spaces between stanzas inviting us to imagine what’s going on beneath the clipped surface of the language. Elsewhere, simple phrasing holds carefully nuanced images: the menace of cracking ice, a long-married couple surrounded by ‘masks / and stiff-limbed, velvet-dressed dolls.’ The writing carries on unfolding inside the reader long after their eyes have left the page.”

5 reviews for January by Sarah Barr

  1. Jill Barr

    I really enjoyed this measured, understated series of observations on lived experience, which dares to be personal. She poses questions and draws conclusions which are relevant to us all. She is particularly concerned with communication in a fractured age.

    ‘Clearing the Ice’ shows a father resorting to chiselling the ice off the ice compartment in the fridge rather than talk to two maiden aunts, with their agenda of monies owed, in the living room. ‘Reservoir’ represents the enormity of what is left unsaid. The last stanza conveys how anxious it makes us feel to sit on so much undisclosed material:
    ‘If we had to, we could step our way
    along the far side of the dam wall
    as long as we were careful not to look down.’

    In ‘Autumn in Venice’ the holidaying couple speak to each other less than usual. ’Walls’, ‘The Phone Call too Late’ and ‘ The Couple Upstairs’ are full of regret for words formulated but not said. This is an issue of importance to us all and Sarah expresses it
    so well. Jill Barr

  2. David Herring

    Sarah’s poems repay quiet time spent with them. You can read them at one sitting. I recommend you do. But don’t be fooled, they are slow-burners. Coming back to them and biding with them allows you to enter Sarah’s pared-back world of wry humour and sly observation. Ever read a poem that turns a couple’s tiffs into a Chinese tea ceremony? You will here. And much more besides!

  3. Simon Tyndall

    To me, this collection is neatly summed up in the line ‘everyday activities that have become art’ (from Making Tea, Drinking Coffee). Sarah manages to write about the seemingly small things of life and reminds us that they count for so much more. Her poem The Couple Upstairs deals with an interchange between two couples that has taken on far more meaning over the years. As we get older we remember incidents in our lives – and reflect on how they have shaped us. And so many of the experiences Sarah Barr recalls will echo our own regrets, fears and doubts. I found The Phone Call Too Late to be such a delicate portrait of the mother-daughter relationship around the themes of loss and life’s what-ifs. And in the poem On The Bus the reader is gently reminded that our response to a situation (the rain) is not always shared by others (in this case the traveller from South America).

    I particularly like Swans On The Vltava River because it helps the reader open their eyes to see just what is around even in the snow and twilight: creation’s beauty can be marvelled at. Cleverly, Sarah does not tell us what to think but paints a portrait that we can be drawn into as we come to our own conclusions. And any writer will know the frustration of having a word in your head as you wake – only to forget it. She points out It’s Only A Word and we know they can be used in many ways. I really enjoyed this volume and look forward to coming back to it time and again. This is an interesting and lovely collection of poems for our time.

  4. Lesley Clark

    What a wonderfully rich and thought-provoking collection. Each poem has a deft and often humorous way of challenging assumptions, especially about how we communicate with those closest to us. The landscapes are powerful and each poem bristles with astute observations and hidden depths. I shall savour returning to personal favourites such as ‘It’s Only a Word, ‘The Great Wall’, ”Walls’, ‘Singapore Night Zoo’ and ‘Fog’.

  5. Maytree Press

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