The latest poetry collection from Oswald, who reimagines classical figures such as Orpheus and Tithonus alive in an English landscape together with shadows, flies, villagers, dew, crickets―all characterized in tension between the weight of death and their own willpower.
[Falling Awake] does not disappoint. Her characteristic, Ted Hughesian voice is in full song. Once again she delivers us from the quotidian, and offers instead a West Country landscape that is sometimes dreamlike, sometimes pure dream ... 'Meaning' is important in these poems, which lack much human population but are full of characters and experiences from the non-human world ... Fierce in the quality of her attention, often metaphorically dazzling, Oswald earns our trust through her authority.
[Not] simply influence or homage, though Oswald is generous about crediting her forebears. The deeper urge is to collaborate with the dead, whose descriptions of badgers and foxes and flies are part of a timeless continuum that now includes Oswald and her readers, each new mind capturing the world according to its distinct angle and music ... Oswald is a remarkable, often very odd describer...Her images tend to thwart the mind—which keeps rusty handles and voices in separate boxes—in a direct appeal to the senses ... Oswald is fundamentally a poet of terror: vivid threats and incipient violence enter the mind through cracks and hidden channels in her work.
Oswald’s most engaging trick is to consider living creatures with such trained concentration that, almost without the reader noticing, she inhabits their consciousness ... its current existence as a printed collection is not the incarnation for which it will be most celebrated, should Oswald choose to record it as a performance. Whilst Falling Awake doesn’t give sufficient grounds for the slightly sycophantic suggestion that Oswald is ‘our greatest living poet’, it is certainly a highly compelling meditation upon transience.