Like the work of the European poets who have nourished him, David Constantine’s poetry is informed by a profoundly humane vision of the world. In his title-poem – which illuminates the themes of the whole book – the lovers are a utopian answering back against the curse (following a crime against Nature) that is carried by the ship passing above them.
Throughout these poems, the personal life, with its own joys and suffering, asserts itself against a world whose characteristic forces are dispiriting and destructive. Nine Fathom Deep shows how all personal life and all poetry written from it deal with the realities of social and political life in the here and now, assert themselves, fight for survival, and actively seek to make a world in which humane self-realisation would be more and more, not less and less, possible.
'The past decade has seen a great deal of activity from David Constantine in the fields of translation, short story writing and editing, but although Bloodaxe brought out his Collected in 2004, this is his first new poetry collection since the 2002 Whitbread-shortlisted Something for the Ghosts. Drawing on the sensibilities of the European poets - Goethe, Hölderlin, Brecht - whose work he knows so intimately, Constantine's humane and serious volume weighs the life of the individual against the crash and tumble of the wider world and finds in favour of the subtler forces and complexities of the former' - Sarah Crown, Guardian.
‘Nine Fathom Deep is a book of considerable authority and unusual seriousness...he is on a quest for clarity in matters of the spirit’ – John Greening, Times Literary Supplement.
‘The mood is both tender and desperate, with something of the uncanny in its blend of the recognisably human and apparently Other… His religious regard for the world (not the same thing as religious conviction) produces a strange translation of its ordinary terms. Its colours and joys and terrors are heightened as though by fever, yet at the same time brought into clearer focus’ – Sean O'Brien, Poetry Review.
‘Constantine’s peculiar vision is an uneasy blend of the exquisite and the everyday…the beatific, the ordinary, the rebarbative even, are almost indistinguishable… Overwhelmingly the poems are intelligent and well-turned, setting out the tensions between innocence and experience with fine control’ – Elizabeth Lowry, Times Literary Supplement.
David Constantine reads seven poems
David Constantine reads seven poems from his Collected Poems: ‘New Year Behind the Asylum’, ‘Eldon Hole’, ‘The Wasps’,’Something for the Ghosts’, ‘Legger’, ‘Common and Particular’ and ‘Watching for Dolphins’. Neil Astley filmed him at his home in Oxford in October 2007. This film is from the DVD-anthology In Person: 30 Poets, filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce & edited by Neil Astley (Bloodaxe Books, 2008).