Who are the fools in our world of climate change? Certainly the author, he admits, in this seriously playful, long-awaited eighth collection. Terry Gifford's poems wryly celebrate people both joyously at home in their landscapes and slightly uneasy about what is happening around them. The first section, 'Flights of the Fool', is culled from fifteen years of travels, geographical and emotional. In the second section, the Fool is in his village in the mountains of Spain, trying to make sense of changing landscapes and old traditions. 'The Guizer' of the last section is the Fool of English tradition, seeking sustaining connections in people and places, the species and processes of the familiar everyday.
The poems in A Feast of Fools combine the accuracy of the field-note with the drama and force of the dream. Maps, read by the light of the campfire.
Terry Gifford's eighth collection excavates the wisdom in what we might think foolish and the foolishness of apparent wisdom. In A Feast of Fools, landscapes and the people who inhabit them are never what they seem, each view is 'deeper, wider than our language'. In 'And the Bride Wore Trainers', a woman looks up at Yosemite as if for the first time, outstaring the present. Mountains are 'stark, hard playgrounds / of light and hidden mist'. Full of tenderness and sharp wit, this collection contains a clutch of 'gifts / unwrapping each other'.
A poem by Terry Gifford is a conversation — genial but sharp enough for questions, even argument — with a person or with landscape itself. Don't mistake his arrivals in exotic places for tourism; each is an encounter fuelled both by whisker-twitch-fine observations and a sense of the long process (and the lasting damage) of the earth. Through all this, his writing voice tracks, as with 'the gift of moving, knees bent between / walking and jogging', constantly responsive to the ground beneath his feet.
In poem after poem, Terry Gifford manages to capture the nuances of the outdoors with deliberation, grace, and charm. This new collection sees him at his best, travelling the world, open to its pleasures and wonders, particularly the glory and gloom of mountains. Reader, pick up your walking sticks and join this poet/mountaineer on an unforgettable tour, full of delights and surprises.
It was a preference for the Quiet Coach—
Wait at the last blue bench along
the platform, sir—that produced, full frontal,
the Didcot Cooling Towers, famous
architect designed Cathedral of the Vale,
and circling on hidden strings above
the town, distant Red Kites, flapping.
Six dark angels in a reddening sky
mirrored the inverted shapes of six
still towers settling into the past
from which these Kites are revived
to scavenge our civilisation, this station
where all heads are pulled down over
little lit digital screens, flickering.