A Jar of Sticklebacks by David Selzer ArmadilloCentral cover72dpi

Reviews: A Jar of Sticklebacks

A Poet of Universal Sensibility: David Selzer’s poetry has a presence that grabs you from the page and works its way into your mind’s perceptions and preconceptions. He juxtaposes the ruins of history with the light patter of a modern child’s feet and her laughter, he shows us a shattered Vietnam veteran in self-imposed exile, and he shares the evasions of knowing and moments of recognition, as he brings sorrow, struggle, pleasure and love into luminescent focus…

He has the universal sensibility of a poet of his time, and beyond his time.

Mary Clark, read the full review on Amazon.

*

“A sensitive memoir: David Selzer’s A Jar of Sticklebacks strikes me as a kind of perceptive and sensitive memoir in that the author has collected 20 poems which contrast a more or less intimate take on his life with some of the century’s moral crises…

His fleeting glimpses into domestic intimacy are subtly charged, highly emotive…

Each word is also chosen with the care, compassion and anxiety which spring from a generation that recalls increasingly remote events like the world-shaping red battles in Dien Bien Phu, the rises of Algeria, the Hungarian October and Suez. Selzer’s peers grew up nurturing the traumas of their parents and searched for new ideals with the sharpened vision of the 50’s and 60’s. It is no accident that David Selzer `s verse is more attuned to social issues than that of many younger colleagues. It is also more sensitive to how poetry and rhythm have all too often vanished from everyday life, converting our routine to a prosaic sometimes jarring reality…

Publishing poetry nowadays is not a good business move, even if the author is an award winning poet and a playwright like David Selzer. But if there were no poems, “the diamond axle of the universe would become bent”, as Attila József, one of the greatest Hungarian poets of the 20th century, once said. Perhaps this is what the director of Armadillo Central thought when she decided to present readers with this lovely volume, which also features Sylvia Selzer’s sensitive photographs.”

András Kepes, author, professor, read the full review on Amazon

*

“The reader is left with strong images, of love, death, nature, relationships, poignant reminiscences from journeys.

I returned several times to the drama of ‘Far Above Rubies.’ In the scene a woman looks from a window over the ramparts of a castle, is then blindfolded by her husband and led to the window of another room. A few facets: ‘… he put his hand in the small of her back …’ such a gentle gesture, followed by … ‘he pulled the cloth hard from her head … shocking her … she watched the body move this way, that way … listened to the rope creak …’ The woman’s response (I won’t give it away) renders her husband’s revenge futile.

Many moments to cherish, like the delightful and tender evocations of the poet’s relationship with his granddaughter. ‘It’s a chancy universe, little one!’ And the line in ‘A Jar of Sticklebacks, a memory of the poet’s own grandpa ‘… imagine me holding up to the light, unbroken, a jar with all your wishes, all your hopes.’ The reader partakes of the blessing.”

Ashen Venema, writer/blogger (originally reviewed on Amazon)

*

“I love this poet.  He renders the ordinary extraordinary.  The mundane becomes sacred.  The emotion is so intense in such a quiet way and his clarity never misses a beat.”

Jane Barthès, Artist

*

“He is very good indeed. I have read 4 and am too full for more at the moment. Blooming ‘…with her longed for future…’”

Arthur Smith, comedian

*

“For me, reading a poetry collection by a single poet can become a highly intimate affair.  You are given direct access to the thought processes and feelings of the creator. Sometimes this peep into the simplest or most intimate moments or thoughts leaves you feeling like a voyeur, stalking through the mundane made majestic and the passionate bottled. Sometimes it is so raw… ”

Gav Cross, blogger

*

‘What intelligent writing! ‘A Jar of Sticklebacks’ proves that the phrase ‘intellectual poetry’ isn’t an oxymoron. The verse flows deceptively smoothly: every few lines, I stopped to relish a particular image or turn of phrase. Like the singing Miller of Dee, David’s work is both lyrical and disrespectful. I’m delighted to have discovered this talented poet.’

Jane Bailey Bain, Author

*

“A Jar of Sticklebacks presents a portrait of the last hundred years through the vision of its writer, whose presence is rooted in his beloved Hoole (a part of Chester). This is the century covered by his own life, and the lives of his parents and grandparents, whose dramatic times he briefly shared but whose survival in the face of war and revolution persistently and movingly intrude on the world that the poems evoke.

History goes beyond recollection and much of David’s work reawakes the pasts of the worlds and places that his own life has visited. His awareness of the role these have had in shaping everything he knows is everywhere – most obviously in A Short History, and Natural Selection, but the tread of the past is usually to be heard. Even in the poems reflecting his recent visits to South Africa, you can hear the sound of colonial Africa’s bones rattling in the townships of Soweto.

The poem of the title is the present end to a journey evoked by the majority of poems. The jar in question is broken, and the fish’s survival is in doubt, but not the memories, hopes and dreams that they come to represent. The poem itself explores David’s memories of his grandfather, and his knowledge of his father (who died in Africa, with David and his Mother left at home). Its dedication to his granddaughter, perfectly describes a man for whom love and wisdom have helped transform his outlook on a world that has seen conflict and disillusionment, but where hope and delight still triumph.

The natural world continues unabated in the background for most of the poems – most notably by his continued love and observation for birds. Robins, gulls, swallows, and buzzards are just some of the avian characters that swoop and nest in the poetry. They represent for a town dweller an obvious reminder of nature beyond a bypass (and David has a poem about one of these too), but they also bring a reminder of distant lands and lives that is both human and non-human – they happily nest in skulls and, elsewhere, menacingly threaten a quiet meal of fish and chips.

David’s gift is for reflection and evocation – it is often photographic in its quality (and his book is well illustrated by the photographs taken by Sylvia his wife). You’ll see this in the almost filmic visions of Soweto, and obviously in Looking for Puffins, where the composition of a photo brings together his family, both as a picture, and a portrait of its inner life.

I have lived with David’s poetry for nearly 40 years, and have looked to see a collection such as these for most of that time. His inspiration for living and for others breathes through his writing for anyone who is not lucky enough to know him!”

J A Huddart, Poet

Purchase A Jar of Sticklebacks.

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