The War with Hannibal
15 October 2019. 38 pp. ISBN 978-3-901993-75-6 (= PSPS 34)
£6.50 (+ 1.50 p&p), €6.50 (+ 1.50 p&p), US$ 9.50 (+ 2.50 p&p)
“Stephen Claughton has a voice that is quite rare in contemporary poetry. You actually enjoy reading him; you enjoy exploring his landscapes, which might be a Latin lesson with restless schoolboys, a subway with a modern Orpheus, or memories of a grandfather who knew Elgar. I can recommend this pamphlet to any reader.”
"Stephen Claughton is a poet with something to say, whose poems are always accessible, engaging and eloquently expressed. Shot through with his own brand of deadpan humour, he seems nonetheless, like Larkin, to be a poet who “will forever be surprising / A hunger in himself to be more serious.” Whether he is de-scribing his “devout Sabbatarian” grandfather, his Latin teacher, or tragic artists l ike Munch and Flannery O’Connor, his portraits of failure and frustration exude a kind of bruised wisdom in the face of mortality and neglect: “We are where we are […]. That’s how things look from here.” And yet, however clear-eyed and stoical his vision may be, this is a poet who entertains and delights us with consummate ease.”
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Table of Contents
Excerpts from The War with Hannibal
Going to the Inevitable
Inspiration ran out
like the drink at some awful party.
He stared at the empty pages,
wondering would they be filled.
Poems had never been easy,
but having one to write
cured most things short of death.
Now the Muse just blanked him.
When even the mower stalled
and he found a prickly soulmate
jammed up against the blades,
it haunted him for days.
Predictably, his own death
was as grim as he’d always imagined.
A nurse sat holding his hand,
as he uttered his bleak, last words.
They sounded familiar,
as if he’d been quoting himself,
a line from one of his poems,
one he still needed to write.
Rather than raise from their tomb
a long-dead knight or his lady,
I practised at home instead
on our northern, vernacular brass.
I’d slot a pre-decimal penny
under a quarto sheet,
then shade in pencil on top
to hatch the image out.
Like a photo, the print developed
right there in front of my eyes –
heads a monarch, tails Britannia.
Not ones for the album these:
doing it was the point,
the fact all you had to do
was scribble across the page
and the image drew itself.
The money was counterfeit,
but the magic worked every time,
as if by rubbing the coin
I’d revealed a hidden talent.
Reviews of The War with Hannibal
"Claughton is a sympathetic and accurate observer and a good story-teller with a facility for conveying human emotions in a few words. His descriptive language is imaginative but he deals almost entirely with actions and events rather than abstract ideas. He is not a great user of metaphor."
"The Poetry Salzburg booklet covers a much wider range of subjects and techniques: ekphratic poems, pen portraits of family members, dramatic monologues, some splendid bird poems, and two appropriately bleak, wry poesm about Larkin […9 all poesm to which I’ll return, again and again […] poems written in everyday language that exhibit the virtues of absolute lucidity, but which shoot with arrow-like precision right into the reader’s heart (a much more difficult trick to pull off than many practitioners of the art realize)."
"Interview with Stephen Claughton" Wombwell Review (22 April 2020) Click here to read the full interview.
Read more about Stephen Claughton
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