The poems in Handling, Jack Thacker’s debut gathering, display an extraordinary gift for describing the sights and sounds of farming life through an exact and tactile evocation of daily work, implements and activities. Childhood memories and seasonal tasks, such as planting vegetables, shearing sheep, and ploughing fields, are handled in a language that is at once strange, familiar, and as rhythmically measured as it is inventive.
The descriptive poems in the book’s first part set the scene for the political and artistic perspectives in its second – made up of pieces arising from time spent as poet-in-residence at the Museum of English Rural Life in Reading. In these poems, which centre stirringly on the agricultural organiser Joseph Arch, lived experience enters into an exchange with imagined pasts, as the museum’s objects and archives are vividly brought to life with this poet’s feeling for words.
‘In the title poem of Jack Thacker’s ‘Handling’, the young speaker struggles to steer large – and stubborn – sheep. Watching his father, he realises that handling animals needs subtlety as well as strength. Both these qualities grace Jack Thacker’s poems not of surface glamour, but of depth and skill. They offer their readers rich rewards’ – Alison Brackenbury
‘On a first reading Handling is a convincing and likeable book; it takes a while to appreciate fully the quiet brilliance of this brief masterpiece, but once you do, it stays’ – Bernard O’Donoghue