Cover design: Nadia Kingsley
In which dismay at finding oneself getting older meets the delight of a fresh generation
I have been in love with Keith Chandler’s poetry for some years now; and have been very excited to be able to include his poems in both Shropshire Butterflies – a poetic and artistic guide to the butterflies of Shropshire, and Three poets on The Life and Works of William Penny Brookes – A Much Wenlock Man. I cannot recommend his most recent collection, The English Civil War Part 2 (pub. Peterloo Poets) enough – and in fact you can buy copies of it from the Shop page, on this website.
He was first published by Carcanet in 1978; and has four solo collections in print – by Carcanet, Redbeck Press, Oxford University Poets and Peterloo. Individual poems have won many prizes. One was the ‘runner up’ in the National Poetry Competition 2012 – when it was up against something like fourteen thousand other poems.
From the pamphlet:
You will remember none of this –
how we loved to pass you around
like a parcel. To wrap, unwrap.
How we marvelled at the newness of your skin,
the softness of a foot that has walked on water,
tiny pearl fingernails.
How we laughed to see you on your back
kicking out like a toy on a stick,
a tipped up beetle, a disco show-off,
How you wore that look of soft amazement
in dawn-blue eyes of not yet colour
wondering at shapes on the window
or the arrangement of ceiling lights.
How we fought for a piece of you –
my ear-lobe, so-and-so’s nose.
How we manoeuvred to pick you up
about the size and weight
of a hot water bottle –
a comfort not for you but for us.
How you heightened our senses
to catch your still breathing,
to nuzzle the fragrance of your scalp
or nose a bouquet of nappy noises
down to the green fingerpaint of your poo.
How loudness could make you flinch,
trapped wind appear to make you smile
How hiccups were the No1 enemy
to be fought, grunting squirmily, against.
How you were happy to swap
our gift of a rattly bunch of rings
in primary colours, cheap plastic,
for the keys to a magic kingdom.
None of this will you remember.
Jan Fortune reviewing in February 2015 issue of envoi magazine:
In The Grandpa Years Keith Chandler continues the Fair Acre Press style of unfussy language with something to say.
A sequence of thirteen poems on the theme of becoming a grandfather and tracing an arc from ultrasound to getting ready to school, this is a whimsical and unashamedly intimate pamphlet from the first line.
But there are serious questions running through this pleasing pamphlet, such as why it is that we become besotted with toddlers..
It is these questions and the recognition of mortality that elevates this sequence from a private tribute to a life-event into a lyrical consideration of change and time.
Andy Croft in The Morning Star 1/3/15:
Keith Chandler addresses the consolations to be found in the company of grandchildren..
There are some nice poems here on the black-comedy of ageing.. But Chandler is best when writing about the invisibility of the old..
The title poem is a wonderful answer to Larkin’s ‘Toad’s Revisited’
Charles Worth – poet:
It’s a brilliant collection and the poems just get better the more I read them. The pairing of ‘youth and age’ works powerfully. And of course the book looks lovely, as I would have expected from this particular press.
Reviews about previous collections:
Anthony Thwaite (awarded OBE in 1992 for services to poetry) on Keith Chandler’s The English Civil War Part 2:
A spellbinding book – tremendously impressive, entertaining, moving, funny.
So many poems I come across these days don’t catch my interest – they don’t seem to be ‘about’ anything. These poems are always ‘about’ something.”
Peter Scupham, Poetry Review:
And now, with a fanfare, comes the Court Jester, Keith Chandler, though, as good jesters do, he speaks unwelcome truths … Read this hilarious and mordant book.
Rennie Parker, Critical Survey:
His angle on the world is fresh and funny … equipped with formidable confidence in the face of uncomfortable truths.
George Szirtes, Poetry Review:
It is a humane, funny, sometimes biting, very English collection. Keith Chandler is a genuine poet, remarkable for his acuteness of observation and unshowy craftsmanship.
Will Daunt, Envoi:
Hilariously satirical, throwing out the home truths in spadefuls, much of A Different Kind of Smoke is so good that it demands to be read out loud. He deserves an ever-expanding readership.