Subversive and satirical, inventive, wry and unconventional, John Hartley Williams has long been celebrated for his maverick sensibility, for his outsider's take on the way we live our lives. In Blues, his eighth collection, he focuses with new directness on the turmoil of Germany and Eastern Europe, and writes eloquently about being English, and staying English, in a continental climate, through all the upheavals of the last fifteen years. Alert to the intricacies and ironies of the language, to the musculature of politics and passion, these poems are chronicles of change, wired to the energies of jazz and science fiction, yet the under-song is a threnody for the loss of a kind of Englishness - voiced powerfully in a moving elegy for the poet Ken Smith. While there is no diminishing of his comic brio, no dulling of his incisive, questioning intelligence, Blues finds John Hartley Williams taking on subjects of new depth and complexity - while maintaining his characteristic lightness of touch, imagination and profound originality.

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