Guided by formal and syllabic constraints, the poems become in part an exploration of how form affects content and how other poets have approached the sonnet. The poems, which are very attentive to rhythm and sound, are often in conversation with historical, philosophical, artistic, and literary sources. But at the same time they engage directly with the present moment. Like the construction scaffolding that year after year goes up around buildings all over New York, these poems build on one another and change the way we see what was there before.
First Nights offers vivid descriptions of the natural world, and the joy found in moments of quiet, alongside intimate depictions of new parenthood. Campbell grew up on the remote, sparsely populated islands of South Uist and Eriskay in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, and First Nights is filled with images of the islands’ seascapes, myths, wildlife, and long, dark winters. But the poems widen beyond their immediate locations to include thoughts on sculpture and mythology, Zola and Dostoevsky, and life in English cities and French villages. In the poems on early fatherhood, the geography shifts from coastal stretches to bare, dimly lit rooms. Stripped back, honest, and immediate, these poems capture moments of vulnerability, when the only answer is to love.
Combining skilled storytelling, precise language, an allegiance to meter and form, and a quiet musicality, these poems resonate with silence and song, mystery and wonder, exploring ideas of companionship and withdrawal, love, and the stillness of solitude. The result is a collection that promises to be a classic.
In Radioactive Starlings, award-winning poet Myronn Hardy explores the divergences between the natural world and technology, asking what progress means when it destroys the places that sustain us. Primarily set in North Africa and the Middle East, but making frequent reference to the poet’s native United States, these poems reflect on loss, beauty, and dissent, as well as memory and the contemporary world’s relationship to the collective past.
Hardy imagines the Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa as various starlings dwelling in New York City, Lisbon, Tunis, and Johannesburg, flying above these cities, resting in ficus and sycamores and on church steeples and minarets. Inhabiting the invented voices of Gwendolyn Brooks, Bob Kaufman, and Henry Ossawa Tanner, the poems make references to Miles Davis, Mahmoud Darwish, Tamir Rice, Ahmed Mohamed, and Albert Camus, and use forms such as ghazal, villanelle, pantoum, and sonnet, in addition to free lyricism. Through all these voices and forms, the questing starlings persist, moving and observing—and being observed by we who are planted on a crumbling ground.
A meditation on the complexities of transformation, cultures, and politics, Radioactive Starlings is an important collection from a highly accomplished young poet.