Against the Night, by P M F Johnson, Reviewed.


Poetry is more difficult to review than novels or nonfiction. For me it is, anyway. As a writer of prose, often puzzled by the brevity and density of poetry, I feel less qualified to comment on technical aspects. What I can do, however, is describe how the poems made me feel, what I experienced as I read, what I got out of the collection.

This book of poetry is subtitled ‘88 Love Poems’, and the collection seems to me to be entirely as described. These are expressions of love, descriptions of love, explorations of love, depictions of love. Love, you note, not sex. There is, as there always will be with words addressed to, for or about a woman who’s the object of love for the poet, some hint of the erotic. But this is subtle and wraps passion in gentle images. Mostly, this is love. Love as I recognise it as a man married to a woman I love. These poems sing of admiration, affection, shared experience, intimate moments, challenges faced together, and the growing love that comes with a shared route to maturity.

The use of metaphor is, at times, exquisite. And so many images tumble before the reader as stanzas unfold. It is possible to become lost in the world fashioned by the poet here. In so many cases I found my wry smile forming as I wished I’d been able to express my own love as eloquently.

There will be those, mostly men, but including the women who relish their resistance to all things romantic, who fail to enter this world and perhaps dismiss it as soft-hearted or unworthy of their attention. The loss is theirs. Those who love or have loved in the true sense of that all-encompassing emotion will enjoy these verses. Some are surprisingly intimate for a public collection, though none is out of place here.

I especially enjoyed ‘Ensorcelled’ for its wonderful internal rhymes, its free-form connections, its lively metaphors and its pure joy of expression. I also found ‘Knowing’, ‘Universal Studies’, ‘Needed’, ‘Wife’ and ‘If Tomorrow’ particularly moving. But, in fact, I enjoyed the whole collection. I’m glad I was introduced to this anthology. It’s a lovely read.

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