James Lasdun's third book of poems explores the themes and tensions of his last two with a new boldness and exuberance, in a series of poems about life in the Catskill mountains outside Woodstock, where the author moved with his family some years ago.
Questions of exile and belonging, cutting ties and forming new bonds, figure prominently, as does the struggle to find a viable relationship with the natural world of the mountain wilderness - at once a stunning companion and a ferocious competitor. Out of this - 'the need to carve out a niche for ourselves;/our singular relation to what we love' - rises the book's central image: the chainsaw. Very much a real machine (given to the alarmed poet by his wife), it also comes to form a complex symbol in which all manner of human traits are reflected with an intense, often comical, brilliance.
A brilliantly assured, deftly lyrical sequence, Landscape with Chainsaw melds passion with wit, the classical with the quotidian, in a thrilling meditation on history, love, cultural identity and the anxiety of displacement. As an examination of the complexities of deracination and domesticity, it marks the matured genius of one of England's most important poets.
James Lasdun's books include The Horned Man and Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked. He teaches creative writing at Columbia University and reviews regularly for the Guardian.
His work has been filmed by Bernardo Bertolucci (Besieged) and he co-wrote the films Sunday, which won Best Feature and Best Screenplay awards at Sundance, and Signs and Wonders, starring Charlotte Rampling and Stellan Skarsgrd.
"As a field for concern in poetry, superabundance enables Lasdun to display his lavish poetic gifts"
Times Literary Supplement - David Herd
"Readers who want to see rejuvenated form in untroubled action, giving brisk shape to contemporary and classical events, will find it in Lasdun"
New York Review of Books - Helen Vendler
"James Lasdun seems to be one of the secret gardens of English writing...when we read him we know what language is for"
Guardian - James Wood
"Brilliant...full of linguistic panache, uncommon depths of feeling, fine ironies and taut drama. He seems to me certainly among the most gifted, vivid and deft poets now writing in English, and far better than many who are more famous. His capacities are solidly established; his promise is nearly infinite"