THE SINKING ROAD

Bloodaxe, 2008, 64pp

In this strikingly varied first collection, Paul Batchelor travels from a laboratory in Hokkaido to the Black Sea steppe, from the mythical Ireland of Mad King Sweeney to the shattered landscape of post-war Germany. The poems he brings back are haunted by a series of memorable talismans: a synthetic snow crystal, an ebony cigarette holder, and the last spray of honesty in a Northumberland B&B. His “Sinking Road” is language itself, taking the reader across the border from present-day concerns to threatened or threatening histories, like that of Gilgamesh, the arrogant warlord, or Ovid, the poet in exile. These meticulously crafted, emotionally charged poems draw on a wide range of poetic traditions to confront, celebrate and question ‘this life, this crucible of accidents’.

‘A poet free of contemporary orthodoxies. Batchelor, who is from Northumberland, is a scholar of the late Barry MacSweeney, sharing his surging energy but not his torments, and at times emulating the engraved tones of another northern modernist, Basil Bunting. [...] Formally and thematically varied, Batchelor’s poems are unified by a tense intimacy that keeps music for the ear and the mouth close at hand and makes life and art inseparable.’ – Sean O’Brien, The Sunday Times

‘It’s a tribute to Batchelor’s unforced confidence in his own voice that he has produced a book so obviously his own, with formal skill and imaginative power, and a gift for precise, memorable phrasing. …Batchelor’s poetic line is never less than firm and richly sounded. The Sinking Road impresses because it has the freshness of a first collection but the substance and imaginative range of a poet already in full voice.’ – Patrick McGuinness, Poetry Wales

‘The title’s road sinks under the weight of memory; the present is always freighted with the past and thus is part of the present… The subtlety, linguistic precision, and variety with which Batchelor pursues his theme make The Sinking Road a volume of riches, an extraordinary debut.’ – Carrie Etter, The Warwick Review

‘Many of the poems in this well-crafted and varied first collection explore the limitations of our attempts to see clearly even those closest to us. [...] It is this sense of loss, of distance, that holds the many different strands of the book together. The collection is dominated by several sequences of poems and, in particular, by two impressive sets of adaptations.’ – Charles Bainbridge, The Guardian

‘With this first collection, Bloodaxe Books continue to champion new poetic voices of rare invention and diversity. Combining fragments of the personal with excursions into myth and historic reality, Batchelor’s debut is a truly polished collection.’ – Nick Garrard, Transition Tradition

‘The Sinking Road is a tightly structured and polished debut. Batchelor’s voice is assured, and his first collection is highly ambitious, ranging through historical, political and personal themes with ease. [...] This is a striking and convincing first collection, carefully observed.’ – Helen Mort, Seam

‘Here is writing that combines striking imagery with depth of feeling… This is an excellent first collection, and promises, one senses, a considerable body of work to come.’ – Peter Armstrong, Other Poetry

 

TO PHOTOGRAPH A SNOW CRYSTAL

Smith/Doorstop, 2006, 28pp

First stage winner in The Poetry Business Book & Pamphlet Competition.

‘Keenly felt; passionately, precisely and lyrically conveyed.’  – Simon Armitage

‘The fact is that Batchelor has an imagination and possesses resources of form, information and vocabulary, and he’s not afraid to use any of them.’ -  Michael Hulse, Poetry Review

 

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