Train Songs edited by Sean O’Brien and Don Paterson

In some ways I’m not keen on assorted poetry compilations, however well-edited they tend to “jump” between poems. However when I saw a collection called Train Songs on the shelf in the library then its definitely worth flicking through.

Train SongsWhilst it suffers from the usual compilation jerkiness, there are some real gems in this collection. I particularly like Wordsworth’s rant On The Projected Kendal to Windermere Railway. The irony of the number of Wordsworth-inspired tourists that travel up this railway is particularly amusing.

An understanding of railway history helps with understanding The Slow Train and why:

No more will I go to Blandford Forum and Mortiehow,
On the slow train from Midsummer Norton and Mumby Row,
No churns, no porter,
No car on a seat
At Chorlton-cum-Hardy and Chester-le-Street
We won’t be meeting again on the slow train.

There is a lot of romanticising about the age of steam, and meetings of travellers, and other ways in which trains thread there way into culture.


November – Sean O’Brien

NovemberNovember is a collection of poems dealing with loss and the lost. I was drawn to it by its moderately Gothic cover, and then it fell open at these lines and I had to buy it:

There are two tribes this world can boast –

The Marmite-lovers and the damned.

Fact is, though, everybody’s toast,

Whatever breakfast they’ve got planned.

The Plain Truth of the Matter

The majority of the book is not flippantly humorous, but deals with a strong connection to mortality and loss. There are a variety of styles lengths of poems, I struggled with some of the longer ones in terms of length and complexity though. In general I found this a satisfying read, sitting on the train silently tapping to grasp the rhythm of more simple poems or losing myself in the more intricate ones. I’m definitely glad I picked it up.

You detect a want of motive here

But don’t you find motive

Is what you become on the way,

Aspects of the Novel – 2. Want of Motive