Transitions, states and places in between, the constant shifting of the ground beneath our feet, form an unsettling continuum in this impressive third volume by acclaimed poet Patrick McGuinness.
The tension can be linguistic, between words within one language or between those in two native tongues; it can be generational, as in his reflection on the different associations of French for him as heir to his Belgian mother and for his own Welsh-speaking children. It can be the gap between the past with its dead preserved in photographs or in their own words, and the fleeting, tricksiness of memory; or the physical and linguistic transitions of a train journey across Belgium awakening memories of the same journey made by him in his youth and before him too by generations of his family. Here are déclassés in their liminal state, an empty chair in a Monet painting occupied by the absent sitter, the parallel worlds of the dead past and the living present.
The final sequence, of 'translations' from the work of fictional dissident Romanian poet Liviu Campanu (1932-94), McGuinness's creation, explores similar paradoxes and ambiguities, from the modern political exile following in the footsteps of the Roman poet Ovid, the constant reinventions of the political past by a seemingly immutable regime, and, indeed, of literature revoiced by the translator. All are evoked with a directness and witty lightness of touch which belies the depth and the richness of association in this thoughtful, memorable collection.
'McGuinness's contribution is harsh and witty. The pessimism is invigorating, and Jilted City grows more powerful with each rereading.'