The River

"These are subtle, tender poems of love, loss and growing up on a farm in rural Ireland... Every poem leaves something in the mind: the beauty and cruelty of farming, the life of land and animals, of parents remembered in their strength, and in their ageing. A quiet, powerful collection." - Gillian Clarke

THE WEEK 12 September 2020

James Rebanks, best-selling author of The Shepherd's Life and English Pastoral: An Inheritance choses The River as one of his five favourite books. 

"These beautiful poems about Clarke's farming family and her childhood in the west of Ireland live on the table by my bed. The battered pages show that I love these poems, and read them again and again. They are gentle, understated, and capture rural people that our world tends to ignore."

Writing Wild, Women Poets. Ramblers, and Mavericks Who Shape How We See the Natural World  (Timber Press 2020)

Kathryn Aalto commendsThe River:

"Finely crafted images of natural life - drystone walls, Rhode Island Red chickens, the smell of burnt barley - are a backdrop in The River to convey the beauty and brutality of farming, the memories of parents, and the life of land and animals."

Poetry Ireland Literary Pamphlet, TRUMPET, Issue 6, April 2017

Poet, Thomas McCarthy, reviews The River in the April 2017 issue of TRUMPET, Poetry Ireland's literary pamphlet.

"...this is poetry of exceptional beauty and accomplishment." "It is almost a lost world, but with a sharp, breath-taking irony of being one of the few poetic witness-documents of an almost Pilgrim Brethren eye cast upon Irish rural material." "Clarke's work here is a marvellous kind of arrival, a redemptive act where memory has meaning and the heart need never be kept indoors."

28 Best Books of Poetry in 2016

The former Poet Laureate of Los Gatos, California chose The River as her favourite collection for this selection of best poetry books in 2016. "This is a book of poems you could give to almost anyone, including people who insist they don't like poetry. I return to my copy again and again."

Artemis Poetry, Issue 17, November, 2016

The poet & founder of Second Light, Dilys Wood, reviews The River in the November 2016 issue of Artemis Poetry. "Jane Clarke's The River is a first collection offering an exceptionally assured but also an exceptionally pure, steady poetic voice." "While the people in Clarke's poems are strong physical presences ... people and place assume a virtually symbolic role in relation to her search for what we might call 'values' or, more simply, a 'footing' in a mysterious world." "Given Clarke's deep interest in 'things of value', we can appreciate that purpose and medium - a restrained, classical approach - are harmonious in this book."

New Hibernia Review, Volume 20, Number 3, Autumn, 2016

The poet, Tracey Youngblom, reviews The River in the Autumn 2016 issue of New Hibernia Review. "We may live out our individual lives, create our individual stories but we are connected to each other by way of our communal experiences, the rhythms of our lives played out in our shared mortality. The River beautifully invokes this connection. As readers we see that our experiences find an echo in others', that our grief is not new, that we can do the seemingly impossible: live through it. The collection begins and ends with this idea. In the opening poem the father must hand over the beloved herding dog after neighbours come to tell him she has 'wreaked havoc last night, thirty ewes dead or dying'. Though grim with grief he 'leaves her at their feet. He says nothing/when he comes in.' The final poem opens, 'What surprises me now is not that you're gone/but how I go on without you.' In fact we all must go on, our present will become someone's future, then the past; our own death will become someone's loss. But there is our hope. Our 'mortal substances ... scatters and gathers again'."

Resurgence & Ecologist, May/June 2016 No. 296

Five poems from The River are featured in the May/June 2016 edition of Resurgence & Ecologist. Peter Abbs introduces The River: "... a memorable collection of poems, which explore the poet's subtle response to growing up on a farm in the west of Ireland." "Clarke registers with memorable cadence and verbal simplicity the changing pattern of the seasons as it shapes the daily life of a farm and, at the same time, the very human experience of loss, ambivalence and eternal impermanence."

New Hibernia Review, Volume 20, Number 1, Spring, 2016

In his editor's introduction to Jane Clarke's new work in the New Hibernia Review, James Rogers writes: "When Jane Clarke's first collection, The River, was released by Bloodaxe Books in 2015, critics were immediately impressed by the qualities of calmness and poise in her lines..." "There is a sort of cleanness in her voice that deftly renders a moment and an image in such a way that the thing described opens up all of its compressed levels of meaning."

Dublin Review of Books, online from Tuesday 1 March 2016

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin reviewed of The River in Dublin Review of Books online, 1 March 2016.

"...her scrupulous, unaffected acceptance of country living as her theme is one of the things that gives this book its strength."

"The virtues of Jane Clarke's writing include a broad sympathy that never usurps the voice of the other, that guides the reader to understanding and respect; a pleasure in ingenious objects and crafts that is deftly transmitted; and a clarity which does not deny mystery but makes room for it."

"The River is an achieved first collection that amply shows what this poet can do. I am impatient to see what she does next."

Poetry Wales, online February 2016

Tony Curtis wrote a review of The River in the February 2016 on-line edition of Poetry Wales.

"...the space between lines, the precise movement and economy of words is consummate."

"The River is a collection of poems, not prose masquerading as poetry. Jane Clarke's lines are honed, measured, finely and finally settled on. She has many of the qualities of her mentor and name-sake Gillian: strength and originality of metaphor, an ear for the music of language and an ability to allow the poem space to accomodate the reader. I recommend The River to readers and writers of poetry."

The North, No. 55 January 2016

Poet and lecturer, Ian Pople, reviewed The River in The North poetry magazine.

"Clarke is clearly a very fine poet of the intensely personal and is able to choose detail and move it around in a poem so that the detail is very telling." Pople chose "Winter" and "Kintsugi" for particular mention and said that the poems, "oriented to the human, to the person located in place", were reminiscent of Charlotte Mew.

"The final effect of all this is that the book has a consistency unusual in debut volumes."

RTE Radio 1 Arts Show, Arena

Writer and editor, Dave Lordan, chose The River as "a stand-out collection this year", in his review of new Irish poetry in 2015, adding that "if you want a masterclass in how to write a lyric, you read Jane Clarke".

The Lady Magazine, Friday 27 November 2015

The Lady magazine recommended The River in their Christmas Books Guide.

"Symbols of transience and change, images of rivers weave through this collection exploring themes of loss, creativity and the natural world. This is a strikingly assured debut that blends touching domestic details with searing insights. A meditative, thought-provoking collection of verse that stays with the reader, offering solace and inspiration long after the last page is turned."

Emily Oldfield, Thursday 12 November 2015

Emily Oldfield wrote a review of The River in her cultural blog, Malady, My Lady.

...rather than pouring out about nature, Clarke pours into it - steering her poetic brilliance through every nook and cranny. This is where we see nature's hand, the river, alongside human hands, a powerful force running alongside the every day: a tin basin, a blue bible, a drystone wall.

The Galway Advertiser, Thursday 5 November 2015

Kevin Higgins reviewThe River in The Galway Advertiser.

"Clarke's poetry is word perfect. Like Heaney, she is a deceptively tough poet." "...Clarke writes about nature from the inside."

The Compass, November 2015

Roy Marshall's review of The River in the November edition of the UK-based online magazine The Compass.

"This book will no doubt fit into Ireland's poetic tradition so seamlessly as to seem to have always been there. However, the themes of Clarke's tender, musical poems are universal, and The River is a book of profound and enduring beauty."

Agenda Vol. 49 No 2

Patricia McCarthy reviewed The River, praising the "simple, direct poems, delicately written, successfully encompassing daily rituals." She chose "Kintsugi", "The Globe", "The Suitcase", "Every Life" and "The River" for particular mention, including "Here, like many other poems, Jane proves she is very gifted at endings that ring on after the poem is finished."

Roscommon Herald, Tuesday 25 August 2015

Gerry Boland devoted his weekly column, The Write Note, to a highly appreciative review of The River.

"There are entire worlds contained in many of the poems. The commonplace rubs shoulders with universal truths that we all can recognise. Throughout the collection, the poet's voice is calm, confident, wise."

The Irish Times, Saturday 8 August 2015

Jane Clarke's The River was reviewed by John McAuliffe in the Irish Times of 8 August. He praised the "telling clarity of her images", her "sharp observation" and noted that in her poem "The Harness Room" she takes her cue from Patrick Kavanagh's line, "Naming these things is the love-act and its pledge."

Ireland's Own, Friday 24 July 2015

Dan Conway wrote a long glowing review of The River in his column, concluding:

'The River is a book sad with a sense of wanting to leave, of leaving inch by inch and poem by poem, the place of cruel beauty that it celebrates so lyrically, so deeply, within its sixty-odd pages. The matter-of-factness of the last two lines of 'Sing' tell of another leavetaking, a going away from faith...But for all that, the poet remains a celebrant, and, as a celebrant has written lines that stay with us and that ring within us like a liturgy for our times.'

The Lady, Friday 3 July 2015

A four-star review of The River ran in The Lady magazine.

‘Images of rivers weave through this collection of poems exploring loss, creativity and the natural world, skilfully employed as symbols of transience and change without any descent into cliché.  An assured debut that blends touching domestic detail and searing insights.’ – Juanita Coulson, The Lady

Orbis 172, Summer 2015

Clairr O'Connor reviewed The River as  '...meticulously realized and a pleasure to read. 'The love poems have a particularly light touch, letting the image elevate the verse.' '... human lives are sighted through the optic of natural processes, and the tact with which Clarke finds nature's metaphors for love, grief, loss, even threat ('Arctic Hare') is a subtle alchemy.'

Irish Mail on Sunday, Sunday 31 May 2015

Joe Duffy devoted his comment column of 31 May to a piece on Jane Clarke.

‘Since Seamus Heaney’s death in August 2013, poetry lovers have been eagerly seeking a successor to Ireland’s greatest modern poet.  The publication by Bloodaxe Books this week of Wicklow-based Jane Clarke’s first collection, The River, will send shudders of excitement through the poetry world and beyond.  From a farming background, Clarke, like Heaney, draws on natural inspirations such as rivers, stone walls, animals and birds for an uplifting, gentle reflection on the human condition.’ – Joe Duffy, Irish Mail on Sunday

The Belfast Telegraph, Saturday 30 May 2015

The River was included in the Belfast Telegraph’s ‘7 books you should own’ feature of 30 May.

‘The subject matter, growing up on a farm in rural Ireland, may be well-mined poetically, but Jane Clarke’s debut collection invests the material with lyricism and a childlike wonder at the casual brutalities of country life, which contrasts with the comforts it also brings.’ – Belfast Telegraph, 7 books you should own

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