Closely observed, exquisitely wrought poems about love and its endurance
Each Other, Waterloo Press, Sept 2019 (price £12)
(NB The refurbished Waterloo website has a few teething problems in the shop department. If you would like to order Each Other or Excisions, do email Clare: email@example.com)
Following a Seamus Heaney Award shortlisting in 2012 for Excisions, Clare Best’s second full collection looks into the many faces of love and relationship. In poems that follow a fictional duo through courtship, cohabitation, separations, reunions, and on towards the end of life, the title section of the book anatomizes the idiosyncrasies, fantasies and surprises of long-term coupledom. A second cycle of poems, Moon House, honours some of the loves central to Best’s own life – between wife and husband, daughter and mother, mother and son, son and father – relationships lived, and recollected in absentia.
What people have said about Each Other:
Each Other exemplifies how poetry can reach back through memory to bring our relationships alive and singing into the world. Best builds a musical hearth at the heart of life, creating a beautifully precise ‘house of song’ to remind us that in all of life’s growth and change, in all its loss and celebration, what survives of us is love. These poems are intimate, sometimes sexy; their elegiac and celebratory stanzas are ‘forever euphoric on chocolate and love’ and, like chocolate and love, they deeply satisfy but also leave us wanting more. Andy Brown
Clare Best’s closely observed, exquisitely wrought poems about love and its endurance strike a balance between the interiors of domestic settings and the natural world. Taking us from Seaford beach and the English countryside to County Clare and the cafés of Madrid and Turin, they evoke a keen sense of wonder and joy, grief and loss – and how extraordinary that this is often achieved in so few words. Mara Bergman
This is a book that is brimming with ideas, thinking, experiments with form and intrigue. Mat Riches in London Grip (full review here)
There is an urgency about these poems… they are infused with how we live on the edge of loss, that though grief is inescapable, we should not lose sight of the preciousness of life and relationship in every moment… In the second part of the book, Best, through the sensitive investigation of an imagined couple, has created a convincing landscape of the joys and sorrows of couple-hood. She does not pretend for one minute that this is easy, and that is one of its strengths. Wendy Klein in Artemis
Similarity and difference, definition and description, the abstract and the concrete, are all harnessed, inviting us to join Clare Best in her grappling with one specific term that also just happens to be this excellent book’s final word: love. Rogue Strands
This is a collection of two parts. ‘Moon House’ swells with jazz and the smell of marmalade in poems of dazzling love for family. A lost mother is commemorated ‘with roses’, ‘with sweet peas’, ‘with chestnuts’. There’s a celebration of the ‘Moon House’ itself, a sanctuary with room for ghosts and new life. Following, the longer title sequence charts its mysterious course through an imagined relationship: the ambivalences and accommodations of the stumbling match between a ‘him’ and a ‘her’, oddly alone together, right from ‘the long white dress of love’, through all the hopes and disappointments of shared life. Charlotte Gann in The Frogmore Papers.
I always make sure I settle down with a nice cup of tea before delving into a new collection from Clare, because I know I’ll be reading it in one go. She manages to write with such punch, and yet it’s so elegantly understated. The second half of the book is the title sequence, charting a relationship from courtship to old age. Somehow Clare gets to the (sometimes heartbreaking) bottom of the subject with both grace and humour. The first section contains some beautiful, quite personal poems honouring family ties, love and loss. ‘In February’ is especially moving – ‘You’re introduced to angels […] look, they welcome you with song and wine / as I would, darling. But I must stay behind.’ Robin Houghton