Poetry News

The Guardian Praises Sam Riviere's Poems on the Modern World

By Harriet Staff

British poet Sam Riviere maintains a popular Tumblr account and tweets regularly. Like everyone else nowadays, he has an MFA. His poems often address issues that didn't exist in the '90s. However, he's gained a following in England, receiving several awards and publishing his work in leading journals like Poetry London and Poetry Review. His newest book, 81 Austerities, is based on his popular blog, which you can see here. The Guardian writes:

The backdrop to all relationships in "81 Austerities," including linguistic, is social networking. Whether on blogs or Facebook, in tweets or poems, what matters in confessionalism is not the dirty or trivial detail itself but the writing of it. These poems are both body and screen, the site of endless re-pinging between self and other ("did she know she'd have that effect / 'accidentally' hitting videocall somehow / so when I answered I was looking up / into her face from inside her handbag"), and their underlying subject is editing the way others see us. Creative writing means creative cutting. Edits to a poem mirror the ways we cut and paste ourselves.

"His subject is the nature of contemporary reality shifting away from you," Seamus Heaney once said of another American modernist, John Ashbery. Following the steps of Paul Muldoon (often alluded to, sometimes by name) – and also drawing, I'd like to think, on the manic confidentiality of Paul Durcan – Riviere has found his own new take on that shiftiness. Some will love it, others may call it superficial and repetitive, or say he's using social networking to push his poetry. I think it's the real thing. He has a powerful lyric gift, the vowels, rhythms and cadences precise as brushed steel; the insights, and how the words behave together, are convincing and surprising; the poems are both intimate and universal and have a lovely energy.

Check out the full review over at The Guardian.

Originally Published: August 8th, 2012