The two searching sequences that bookend this collection are not so much elegies as unfinished conversations with friends no longer living – friendships lost or neglected, with their closeness and distances sensitively mapped. This is Philip Gross’s writing at its most hospitable, lit up by a sense of personal address, both tactful and deeply engaged. The sea that is always in sight, between us and beyond us, is more than a metaphor. It is another conversation – with the real sea of this planet, used and abused and in need of our care.
Between the Islands is Philip Gross’s 26th book of poetry, and his 11th from Bloodaxe.
'Moving from island to island, continent to continent, Between the Islands is concerned with memories, with resonances throughout time, but also with emergent dangers; ecological fears and the rising islands of refuse accumulating in our oceans.' - Poetry Book Society Bulletin, Spring 2020
'The two sites of metaphysics - the edge of the self, and the edge of the sensory world - converge in the final sequence of the book, which is also the title poem.' - Seán Hewitt, Poetry Ireland Review [on Between the Islands]
'Gross is fascinated by the lack of clear boundaries between the individual being and the forces of nature and society that surround and constitute it. There are glimpses of an almost mystical communion with nature, reminiscent of Wordsworth and Coleridge, though in Gross such moments are hard won, precarious and tentative... Gross’s many-layered poems create complex internal circuits for meditation.' - Edmund Prestwich, Acumen [on Between the Islands]
'The interplay and tension of the tactile and spiritual makes this such an enlightening and rewarding collection, drawing you in with something familiar only to heighten the experience with unacquainted thoughts.' - Glen Wilson, The High Window [on Between the Islands]
'...this is at root a meditative collection, haunted and haunting. It often sounds edgily relevant and contemporary - the Somerset Levels, “chafed by long drainage”, waiting “for the sea to return, to be healed”. - Sheenagh Pugh [on Between the Islands]
'This collection finds the poet at his most socially astute and, coupled with his startlingly good portrayals of the natural world, is both sublime and challenging reading. Highly recommended.' - Keith Hutson, Poetry Salzburg Review [on Between the Islands]
‘At the heart of all of Gross's collections has been his deep enquiry into and fascination with the nature of embodiment and existence – what water is and does in The Water Table, the role of language, and speech especially, in identity and the self in Deep Field and Later. Now in Love Songs of Carbon Gross tests and feels his amazed way through the mysteries of the multiple manifestations of love and ageing... Such exactitude of feeling and image is typical of all Gross's work, and no less inventively in this new collection. Characteristic too is his focused, sustained approach across the whole book: Love Songs of Carbon asks to be read as a song-book, to use the terms of its presentation, curated for the reader to turn and return to. From poem to poem, pace and metrics quicken and still and quicken again as the book progresses.’ – John Burnside & Jane Draycott, PBS Bulletin