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The May Figures

The May Figures

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By Chris Preddle


Figures of history and legend, contemporary figures, the poet’s friends and neighbours, and some goddesses rub shoulders in these poems, which begin with the formation of continents and continue into the present. Many characters speak for themselves, more are spoken about, and there are verse letters to friends. A big sequence starts in the village of Holme in West Yorkshire, comes back often to Jacqueline who ‘came inland’, visits the Stone Age, Europe, Asia, China and Massachusetts, and ends among the may trees of Holme. ‘A poem is a search for values’, and these poems look for ‘mays’ and certainties, thoughtful and moving. The style is allusive, the forms are various, there are puns, assonance, repetition and a profusion of half-rhymes too clever by half. These poems look outward, and reassert the music of poetry. This is Chris Preddle’s third collection.


Chris Preddle has retired from library work, in public libraries and with two childcare charities. He lived for many years in the village of Holme in West Yorkshire, on a windy shoulder of the Pennines. His second collection was Cattle Console Him (2010). He won the first PN Review Prize in 2017, has been shortlisted for the Manchester Poetry Prize (2012), was second in the Strokestown competition (2012), and won the Scintilla competition for shorter poems (2007). His work has appeared in many magazines in Britain and Ireland. He is translating the songs and poems of Sappho.


"Preddle’s language is precision-tuned. Layered with the cadences, rhythms and ceremonies of history and all our poetic pasts, it cuts, at the same time, directly to our contemporary hearts." – Damian Walford Davies, editor of Scintilla, Pro Vice-Chancellor for the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Cardiff University; author of Whiteout, Suit of Lights  and Witch

"Chris Preddle seems to have gone a little under the radar: he is a poet to learn from and to enjoy, who hasn’t always been enjoyed widely enough...his poems are always gloriously unfettered by fashion, for one thing. But, as The May Figures so amply demonstrates, they are also imaginatively and linguistically sprightly, and varied: he is as tricksy and alluring in tiny imagistic poems as he is in longer, fractured, inquisitive ones, equally keen to engage your heart and your head. Many of these new and often worldly poems are in dialogue with histories, traditions, other writers - but there is no cleverness for its own sake, no posturing, no pretence. If those things matter to you, you should read this book." -  Rory Waterman,  Senior Lecturer in English and Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent Univeristy, and author of Wendy Cope; Sweet Nothings; Tonight The Summer's Over and Sarajevo Roses


"The unifying theme of this book’s grand palimpsest of the antique and contemporary is what people find important and where they look for certainty. That feeling, Preddle’s hallmark, is both playfully serious and unusually humane. These poems are lyrical, diverse in form, persistently ingenious in their half-rhymes, alliterative, witty, punning with impunity. They are full of extraordinary tense-nuances and syntaxes, and completely outwith our period’s identitarian obsessions. I found myself imagining a relaxed Geoffrey Hill, with Eliotan tones. The title-sequence, a big poetic architecture, comprehends eras and ways of living, and turns in a great circle back to its beginning: a loved person in a loved locality." - Chris Agee, founder and editor of Irish Pages and author of Trump Rant; Next To Nothing and New Worth

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