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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Etter

Denise Riley's Say Something Back (Picador, 2016), first selection

I've been relishing this book and include some of my favourite passages here, with a second selection to follow in a few days.

Read from the hymnal of frank life--of how

to be old, yet never rehearse that fact cosily.

end of "Tree seen from bed"

I can manage being alone,

can pace out convivial hope

across my managing ground.

opening of "Under the answering sky" (a brilliant poem)

Dusk, crossroads, walker, flats, night.

That rapid wordless halt bewilders me.

Now evening will hold still for years.

from "The eclipse"

All hindsight shakes itself out vigorously like a wet dog.

last line of "Silent did depart"

Moving toward my silence

I'll speak evening thoughts

sparkling with reproach though

I had meant to forgive.

last stanza of "Krasnoye Selo"

Still looking for lost people--look unrelentingly.


The souls of the dead are the spirit of language:

you hear them alight inside that spoken thought.

beginning and end of "Listening for lost people"

Sweet-throated warbler, yelp.

Off trots the she-shepherd

with a basket for briar roses

or strawberries, should the

churned earth house them.

end of "After 'Nous n'irons plus au bois'"

who weren't rapt, only dozing in warm grass at noon, lulled

by music to dreaming their sonic enchantment is virtuously

militant, a sparkly art stance plus a strong civic end in itself?

from "And another thing"

It willed to be ordinary, easy

as rain sifting through woods

but doubt shrouded that mind

skewing its aim at mildness.

opening stanza of "Catastrophic thinking"

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