The Customs House by Andrew Motion

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This is a collection that makes one think about how poems earn their keep and the difficulties involved in deciding who the best audience for a poem is.
-Guardian

Synopsis

Andrew Motion's new book opens with a sequence of war poems (first published as the pamphlet "Laurels and Donkeys", on Armistice Day 2010), drawing on soldiers' experiences of war from 1914 until today - beginning with a story about Siegfried Sassoon and moving via World War Two and Korea to the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of the poems are in the voices of combatants, others are based on memories of the poet's father, who landed at D-day and fought in France and Germany. The poems combine understatement with a clear-eyed and unswerving candor. "The Customs House" has other rooms: a group of topographies, mapping moments in a marriage against the contingencies of place and family history; and several 'found poems', in which the poet collaborates with his source, mixing what is there already with what is about to be there: whether a remarkable sonnet sequence on the last days of the Baroque genius Francesco Borromini, or in other poems a richly imagined extrapolation from the silent premises of a painting.
 

About Andrew Motion

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Andrew Motion was Poet Laureate from 1999 to 2009; he is Professor of Creative Writing at Royal Holloway College, University of London, and co-founder of the online Poetry Archive. He has received numerous awards for his poetry, and has published four celebrated biographies. His group study The Lamberts won the Somerset Maugham Award and his authorised life of Philip Larkin won the Whitbread Prize for Biography. Andrew Motion's novella The Invention of Dr Cake (2003) was described as 'amazingly clever' by the Irish Times and praised for 'brilliant and almost hallucinatory vividness' by the Sunday Telegraph. His memoir, In the Blood (2006), was described as 'the most moving and exquisitely written account of childhood loss I have ever read' in the Independent on Sunday. His most recent collection of poems, The Cinder Path (2009), was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry. Andrew Motion was knighted for his services to poetry in 2009.
 
Published January 1, 2012 by Faber & Faber. 96 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by David Morley on Dec 14 2012

The Customs House is a strong, searing and sad book. I think it is certainly Motion's most achieved collection. It signals a central change to the way he is thinking and feeling in language.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Kate Kellaway on Nov 24 2012

This is a collection that makes one think about how poems earn their keep and the difficulties involved in deciding who the best audience for a poem is.

Read Full Review of The Customs House | See more reviews from Guardian

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