Kate Bingham’s new poems are exquisite, thriving on the tension she creates between her startling formal skills and a refreshingly natural, colloquial voice. Her down-to-earth subject matters – household laundry, fly tipping, pop music, puddles – are, with the lightest of touches, ushered towards the great themes: nature, art, parenthood and age, guilt and wonder. These superb, bitter-sweet, idiosyncratic sonnets whisper and hum – like the sun-warmed piano in one of them, within its own ‘small steel-wire cage’ – yet articulate the kind of open-ended, scrupulous, intelligent vision Bingham herself defines: ‘you can count on me // to be only human’.
Twenty-five perfect sonnets give attention (‘the rarest and purest form of generosity’, said Simone Weil) to an ordinary yet biodiverse London neighbourhood. This is a poetry of empathy, celebration, shame and subtle doom; of down-on-the-knees worship of the day to day, the ‘inconsequential schwa’ of our delicate world in which every object, sound and shadow has its own unique selfhood. If one ever doubts, as I have, the capacity of poetry to restore, these sonnets – which have shuttled me between grief and joy – make one grateful to be alive.
Kate Bingham’s subtle, careful, beautiful sonnet sequence is sure-footed, inviting and increasingly intriguing. These poems are unemphatic, unsentimental, unmelodramatic, and yet so quietly absorbing.