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Set Thy Love in Order: New & Selected Poems

183 pages53 minutes


Set Thy Love in Order: New Selected Poems gathers the work of some thirty years, taken from Stephen Romer's four previous collections, along with a substantial selection of new poems. Stephen Romer has been described as one of our finest poets of thwarted or impossible love' (Adam Thorpe in the Guardian) and the title of this New Selected is a Dantescan objurgation as old as the Trecento: Ordina qu'est amore, o tu che m'ami set thy love in order, o thou who lovest me. Romer's central theme is encapsulated by these words, and his prolonged and painstaking exploration of the intermittences of the heart', frequently carried out with a Francophile self-consciousness and a rueful wit, constitute so many variations on the theme. Early on, Derek Mahon singled out Romer's first collection Idols for its emotional candor and intellectual clarity' and since then the poet has endeavored to turn the light of the intellect (and the wit) on the frequently chaotic and contradictory material of the heart. Throughout his work, Romer is nervously alive to the voices of the past, especially in the illustrious tradition of the Muse poem, as Adam Phillips noted in The Observer writing of Yellow Studio: Romer is one of our finest contemporary poets because he has made such a distinctive idiom out of such a complicated inheritance.' What this New Selected articulates more clearly, is the constant oscillation between love and loss and longing, and the religious desire for refuge' and higher things' and how powerfully these can come to rhythm the life of the mind and the emotions. Coleridge described love as a chaos of kind in a continuity of time' and deplored how his entire being could be abridged to this single inclination'. Romer's poems frequently visit that territory, but more recent work has included poems of love and mourning for his parents, and elegies for friends, some gone too soon. The high seriousness of Romer's lyricism is also characterized and tempered by a self-deprecating wit. The British Council Writer's Directory concludes its entry on Stephen Romer thus: Notwithstanding his sophisticated Francophile masks and semi-detached Englishness—and his philosophical eye on the emotions—Stephen Romer may well be the finest love poet of his generation.'

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