William Alderson
A Moment of Disbelief: Poems on War, Terrorism and Refugees
September 2017. 43 pp. ISBN-13 978-3-901993-60-2
£7.00 (+ 1.50 p&p), €7.00 (+ 1.50 p&p), US$10.00 (+ 2.50 p&p)
A Moment of Disbelief is a convincing and unequivocal condemnation of war and its exploitative and inhumane consequences. At the beginning of this collection, the poem “The Weeping Woman (by Pablo Picasso)” stands out as an apt signifier for the grief and suffering as a result of war prevalent in our world today. A subtle evocation of humanity is present throughout this collection; and there is hope too, as expressed in the poem “The Lost Fen Ragwort”, which ends with “one lost flower recovered, / one waking to friends and joy, / one open door inviting me to live.” This justifiably, politically-charged collection could be enjoyed for the expressive sharpness of its poetry while giving a significant pause for thought.”
John Lyons

“William Alderson is a poet of skill and intensity. His poems often display deep feeling about war and migration. Like Shelley, clearly a poetic hero for him, he reacts with eloquent dismay to the horrors of combat and suffering. And like Shelley he is not content with a rhetoric of protest; he also examines, in poems such as “The Mask”, the theme of complicity in political wrong. This is a compelling collection, at once forceful and subtle. Reworked nursery rhymes, the sonnet and the villanelle, plus adroitly handled stanza forms and adapted songs, all appear in a volume that, through its fusion of art and controlled anger, serves as ‘an open door, inviting [us] to live’.”
Michael O'Neill

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Table of Contents

Excerpts from A Moment of Disbelief

Gulf War Photograph

The photograph perpetuates a moment
And traps the uncompleted call to flight.
We can consider, in the colder light
Of day, the burning urge to movement.
Of course, this sculpture, poised inside the wreckage
Of a blackened cab, could never have leapt
Beyond the frame, so this picture has kept
A faithful record of the final image.

The eyes that stare intensely are fired still
By knowledge of all the degrees of pain
As flesh is thumbed back from the life to clay
And flames suck breath from ashes, dust. In vain
You turn away, this death has had its say:
“I’m not the only one your generals kill!”


The soldiers have freed Kosovo for you
And swept across the border just as planned,
But armies do what armies always do.

Defeating all the enemies who slew
Your loved ones, now the future will be grand:
The soldiers have freed Kosovo for you.

The promise is their forces will renew
Your shattered lives and lend a helping hand,
But armies do what armies always do.

They liberate the power of the few
To take control, and soon you understand
The soldiers have freed Kosovo for you

To follow NATO’s orders. It is true
You didn’t think they’d occupy your land,
But armies do what armies always do.

There’s little hope that you’ll not learn to rue
The day your home became a no-man’s land.
The soldiers have freed Kosovo for you,
But armies do what armies always do.


Reviews of A Moment of Disbelief

"These words are heartfelt, angry and passionate. They’re not subtle or nuanced, or written at a slant. You feel that Alderson hasn’t got time for all that lark – and that, as a journalist, his urge is to communicate, rather than to mystify. […] the entire collection is infused with passion, belief, and certainty. Poems to carry with you on an anti-war demonstration, feelings that are admirable. William Alderson worked in TV news for 25 years, and yet retains a sense of conviction, and a lack of cynicism – which is some achievement.

Greg Freeman. "Review". Write Out Loud (14 December 2017).
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"William Alderson’s poems have exactly this quality of gathering the fragments of feeling, of our unifying humanity, that are systematically banished by mainstream coverage of war and its rationales. The verse mobilises our sense of connection with the victims of our rulers’ instrumental reason. Moreover, there are reflections, building across the poems, and sometimes nestled within the imagery, of the links between the terrible consequences for human life caused by our governments’ bombing campaigns, and our alienation from that damage created by the very media that informs us. […] It is not simply the congenial political message of these poems that make them so appealing, but the great skill that lies unobtrusively beneath their meanings and impact. The forms draw from the Romantic poetry of the nineteenth century and more modern styles with equal deftness. […] Political poetry has never found much favour within the critical establishment, which tends to sneer at what it can’t otherwise dismiss. Nonetheless, poetry played a vital role in the birth of modern radical struggles, from Shelley and Byron, through to the Chartists in the 1840s, whose newspaper, The Northern Star, was full of the poetry of its working-class readers. Ever since, anti-Establishment politics and poetry have had a strong affinity. William Alderson’s carefully crafted, and deeply felt verse is a fine addition to this long tradition.

Dominic Alexander. "Review". Counterfire (November 2017).
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"For Alderson poetry can and should be a vehicle for change. At times didactic, his verse presents destruction and decline on the largest scale (the self-interest of political leaders, civilians fleeing bombs) and sometimes it is too much to take in. […] Like Shelley, Mr Alderson is concerned with the complex consequences of war. Everyone is culpable, he interrogates culpability and complicity [...]. Shelley was an underground radical; Alderson is a ‘desert’ poet. The strictures of metered verse adds power to the testimonies of both; Alderson’s Petrarchan sonnet "Gulf War Photograph" being perhaps his finest example. He shows life as it were, backwards: as flames return humanity to clay, so fire breathes through wreckage."

Tanya Parker Nightingale. "A stone in sand, a knot in wood". Dream Catcher 36 (November 2017)

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