Up Late: Poems

Norton. Nov. 2023. 96p. ISBN 9781324065449. $26.95. POETRY
In his fifth collection (after Feel Free), the Northern Irish poet and novelist Laird strikes a deeply elegiac note, exploring the metaphysical dimensions of solitude, time, space, and impermanence (“Even living/ you are tearing through something made not/ of particles but of the relations between them”) with an awareness born of lived experience and, most acutely, his father’s death. But though the 12-page title poem in memory of the departed loved one occupies center stage in the book (“Impossible to grieve/ and not know the vanity of grief”), Laird sees his personal loss as symptomatic of something much larger, what he calls the “permacrisis…the era of collapsing systems” that envelops the planet itself, “the lacerated earth/ attempting now to shake us off.” The practice of poetry, of course, provides a sense of permanence in the midst of chaos (“I want poem to destroy time”), and Laird can still find pleasure in “the art of introducing words/ that haven’t met.”
VERDICT While the poems in the last third of the book seem a shade lighter than those preceding them, this collection offers readers a satisfyingly rich palette of imagery and insight.
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