Throughout Rake, Matthew Caley’s fifth collection, it can appear as if we are leafing through the oblique diary of an immortal time-travelling rake, one who is seeking his ‘one true beloved’ through an heroic tally of amorous encounters, desperately trying to get beyond appetite; or possibly a number of parallel immortal time-travelling rakes; or maybe even someone, having drunk too many espressos, imagining themselves to be such a rake.
The forms used are equally promiscuous: tanka, sonnets, refrains, poems sifted from or alluding to Les Liaisons dangereuses or Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse, versions of Baudelaire, Bonnefoy and Corbière, an ‘echo sonnet’, sonnet-strings, mono-rhymers, a ‘tonnet’ – hybrid of sonnet and tanka – and, most frequently, tanka used as a run-on stanza unit.
Traversing the boudoirs of La Belle Époque, 80s Cold War Russia, ancient Egypt and the Wild West, to London 1910 or LA in the 1990s, but more often than not from these locations to the 24 hour neon of the contemporary city and back again in a micro-second, desire feeds lack (and vice versa) yet yearns for escape. What results is a series of beautiful, back-handed love poems.
‘… the technical resources deployed remain consistently highly coloured and deft in execution. A tanka-derived syllabic structure for stanzas predominates, but a multitude of other forms are used with intelligent grace…I know that it is the verve of Caley’s writing I will be re-reading.’ – Ian McEwen, Magma
‘A rake’s gaze is compromised but hungry, and here it is self-consciously exposed… The collection is not all tassels, suds and boudoirs (though it is decidedly indecorous)… the book is a Waste Land of sorts, punctuated with Pound-like fragments.’ – Edwina Attlee, The Poetry Review
‘… a series of densely written love poems in which the reader is aware of something strange and beautiful (and perhaps a little dishonest) going on behind the scenes… It is this sense of play that makes the poems so striking, as well as the tightly reigned undertones of kitsch… Rake seems to have created a brow of its own, colloquial enough to keep you reading, yet complex enough to keep you uncomfortable.’ – Emma Hammond, Poetry London
'Formally outrageous, culturally light-fingered, Caley’s vision and wit make for poems that turn a wondrous, great lamp on the inter-relatedness of all things. An important poet.’ – John Stammers
Matthew Caley: Rake
Matthew Caley reads and introduces eight poems from his new Bloodaxe collection Rake: ‘The Confluence of the Elbe and the Upa’, ‘Foregone Conclusion’, ‘Written Immediately on Waking’, ‘Misery Memoir’, ‘Willow’, ‘Absolute Gospel’, ‘Walnuts’ and ‘The Young Hegelians’. This video shows part of his performance at Ledbury Poetry Festival on 3 July 2016.