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Bethany W. Pope is a poet in love with form. Deeply sensitive, and wildly imaginative, she contorts herself virtuously into such mashups as the double-acrostic sonnet crown, etching deeper meanings into deceptively plainspoken, American veneer.
Pope’s writing has an intensely visual quality. Her use of imagery is strong – often unflinchingly so. Her ability to drill down into the depths of the id and face full-on what she dredges up speaks of an inner strength as well as a creative one. Undisturbed Circles builds on the stylistic and psychological achievements of her previous collection Crown of Thorns (Oneiros Books, 2013) whilst striking out ever more confidently in her use of form. What for other writers would be mere gimmickry is integral in this outstanding collection to an overarching aesthetic. So many poets falter under the strictures of form; Pope soars.
With each fresh opening of the book, there emerges a new pattern, a new trail to follow into the labyrinth. Undisturbed Circles is an impressive achievement, and it is remarkable that an almost OCD fixation upon the conceptual possibilities of strictly regulated form should produce a work that feels utterly unbound in its creative scope.
The uncompromising bluntness of these lines is characteristic of Pope’s work in this collection. It is a book full of fierce intensity; and it strikes me that it is just as well that she has used the relatively short sonnet form which allows the reader to take quite frequent pauses for breath. To have cast these poems as long continuous narrative might have made them much harder to read and to bear. Pope has a highly original poetic vision and is adventurous both in her themes and her imagery.
Crown of Thorns
Bethany Pope’s latest collection Crown of Thorns describes itself on the title page as a ‘Marriage of Forms’. Indeed it is the formal structure the poet employs in this book, with such elegance and apparent ease, which must be first and foremost admired.
Like a seed that lodges in the brain and slowly germinates, the deeper meanings emerge gradually long after the final sonnet has been read. The reader emerges with an empathetic understanding of pain, an appreciation of suffering that embodies more than mere sympathy, and a recognition of the human condition to which we are all exposed.
In Bethany W Pope’s A Radiance, darkness and light play before the eyes with extraordinary and often disturbing effect.
A Radiance is a remarkable collection which presents us with a family who encountered extraordinary events. Yet the predominate tone of the narrator is pride at relations who suffered but were strong as pioneers and by the end of their lives had been rewarded for their pains.