Anthony Anaxagorou’s “After the Formalities” is a ‘difficult’ volume of poetry. Difficult in a number of senses: in some of its themes and narratives; in the structure of many of the individual pieces; in some of the language and punctuation.
It is also difficult in its variability. There are a small number of exceptional pieces – and far too many where the poems are simply difficult to read and interpret, the poet having played fast-and-lose with the language to such an extent that it gets in the way of meaning. That failure disqualifies a poem for me; you have to give the Reader a chance.
Maybe they are better spoken aloud; heard rather read off the page.
Because of these characteristics, I confess to have taken against the book very early. I struggled with the early poems, and found myself wondering what the reviewers had been smoking when they described it as “supreme”, “a poet at the peak of his powers”… Obviously these are people attuned to a modern rather than traditional voice – which is fine, if that’s your thing.
The small number of really good pieces that were on my wavelength (it’s all personal preference after all!) to some extent redeemed the volume. But having said that, on balance I still can’t see myself picking it up to re-read any time soon.