Laced with music and writ-through with a kind of visceral nakedness and vulnerability that seems to be both literary and thematic yet entirely subconscious, The Floating Man is Katherine Towers’s exquisite debut collection. In it, she maps “the contrapuntal art of love” with breathtaking dexterity and simplicity. At times existential and abstract and elsewhere deeply personal and intimate, Towers is rarely anything other than sublime; in her tactile awareness of language, and in her succinctness. It is, in many ways, the epitome of poetry: startlingly precise, impossible to paraphrase and absolutely, unquestionably necessary.
She manages her free verse with deft sleight-of-hand, finding rhythm in the natural world, “the staggered iterative chant of the heart”, or the rise and fall of birdsong. Indeed, while much of the collection is concerned with music – conventional compositions and the musicality of everyday life – the poems are music in and of themselves.
If you have ever heard or felt something beautiful; ever loved or possess the capacity to love; ever existed in harmony with or fundamentally apart from the earth, then you should come and hear Katherine Towers read. If that seems a little vague and all-encompassing, it’s because everybody should come and hear Katherine Towers read. There is something within each poem that is universally relatable, just as the best songs have singable melodies even when the lyrics at first seem distant. With Towers, one listens again and again, replaying pieces to hear once more the different voices and ideas interweave effortlessly, alternately discordant and harmonious; and always simply right.
The Floating Man is published by Picador.
Katherine Towers is appearing with Sean O’Brien on Saturday 30th June from 6-7pm in Ledbury’s Burgage Hall. O’Brien, thrice winner of the Forward Prize for best collection (Ghost Train, 1995; Downriver, 2001; The Drowned Book, 2007) and once for best single poem (Fantasia on a Theme of James Wright, 2006) needs little introduction. The two are also running the Northern Poetry Workshop, also on Saturday 30th June, from 10:30-12:30 in The Old Cottage Hospital.
Tickets for both events can be booked at http://www.poetry-festival.com/bookings.html or by calling Box Office on 0845 458 1743