Poets have their rivers – Charlotte Smith has the Arun, Michael Drayton the Ankor – and like these precursors, Alan Baker has picked the sonnet as the vehicle to translate the ever-changing fluvial reality of water at its riverrine transformations into a stop-go sequence, that changes perspective with each fresh look, each new thought. Written at speed, ‘the Trent’, becomes Baker’s ‘mutable, silent, ultimately unreliable frontier’: he can’t keep mute immobile vigilance, like a fisherman, but is plunged into voluble, repeated but variable response. The narrator is quite sincere, though as unreliable as a riverbank; he doesn’t know whether he has been invaded by the river or if he has invented it. Both are true, of course – these fleet, accurate glimpses of that mutability are charted with finesse.
— Robert Sheppard
‘on the surface a uniform grey / but in the depths an inner life’ – such scaffolds how Alan Baker’s poems run deep, spill wide, and linger to become everlasting song. Here, the river is history and (despite history) hope so that the poems, too, bespeak desire. How can we not be moved, even if the poet cautions about the river: ‘it isn’t human, it doesn’t care about us?’
— Eileen R. Tabios
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