Lots to like in this review of ‘Like This’

Here is a review of ‘Like This’ that has just been published in The High Window.

Note the picture shows the original cover design. My thanks to David Cooke, editor of The High Window, for including the review, and of course thanks to Sue Kindon for an attentive and generous review.

I can easily send you a copy of the book if you go here – https://neilelderpoetry.wordpress.com/books-shop-2/#like-this

The link for the Winter edition of The High Window is here –


Neil Elder’s Like This reviewed Sue Kindon

like this jpeg

Like This by Neil Elder. £5.99. 4Word Press. ISBN 978-2-490653-11-9

Instead of starting with a dedication, Neil Elder begins with a quotation from the novel Stoner by John Williams: ‘What did you expect? he asked himself.’

Over the course of the next forty-four pages, Elder questions the nature of expectation, reality, and perception. He says in the Preface that most of the poems were written in the last two years, which, as we know, haven’t been the easiest of times. There is an underlying sense of early 21st century angst and uncertainty; In ‘On Hold’, Emma from Reception wants to know:

how long to hold on for,
unsure of when the line
will be disconnected.

Elsewhere, there are flashes of colour and dazzling light, as in ‘No Reception’, the opener:

The sun is splashing through leaf cover
and I squeeze tight-shut my eyes
to see a kaleidoscopic rush of yellow and green.

Often there are two perspectives of the same situation. ‘Two Views’ speculates on the different outlooks from the writer’s hotel room and that of his neighbour across the corridor. In the delightful fantasy, ‘The Dutch Room, painting no 12’, the young herdsman in the picture is eager to experience life beyond the valley, and is disbelieving of the viewers, who are envious of his bucolic existence. A deft piece of mental gymnastics. The two-viewpoint theme recurs in ‘Broken’ – which party actually let slip the glass?

Then there’s that thing we do when the mind wanders off :

I don’t remember how I arrived
on this stretch of dual carriageway.

and: even as you talk,
I am picturing the dessert menu.

There are moments of hope and humanity, – a whole poem of them in ‘These Moments Will Keep You Warm’, with its implication that you are going to need them in the cold places to come. There is laughter, howls of it. A wry humour is at play, at times reminiscent of Billy Collins. This comes across strongly in ‘Birthday Surprise’, where the speaker tries (and fails) to put on an appropriate smile at his birthday celebration. The second stanza is unexpected:

Scanning the faces of friends and family
who are giving Happy Birthday a go,
I see my father; a surprise
because he has been dead so long,
and he always hated parties.

The matter-of-fact tone of this revelation works a treat, and is sustained to the end of the poem. The smile appears, and touches the reader.

I am a little in love with ‘When David Attenborough Died’, which wrong-footed me into fact-checking on Wikipedia. Panic over, I could enjoy this fabulous (in all senses) fantasy of the ecologist-friendly response to the imagined demise of the great man, from the bewilderment of office workers and the reaction of schoolchildren, to the shutting down of production lines :

…plastic punnets remained empty.
And pilots quit their cockpits, refused to fly again;
that was the start of the Heathrow Nature Reserve.

Throughout the book, Elder strikes an accessible, conversational tone, and there are no awkward line breaks lying in wait to ambush the pleasure of reading aloud. Free verse at its best, and an existential world view in a digestible form.

Overall, a deal is struck between possibility and certainty; in the poem ‘Balance’, Elder concludes:

Ahead is a day of work: I should be glad
and indeed, I am. But I shall be glad
when I drive home into the sun,
knowing I shall do this again tomorrow.

Like it or not, life is like this.

Sue Kindon lives and writes in the French Pyrenees. She has been widely published in magazines, and has had some success in competitions. She considers her greatest achievement to date to be a prize for a poem in French. She is currently working on a third pamphlet to follow She who pays the piper (2017) and Outside, The Box (2019).


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