Philip Salom, ‘Alterworld ‘ in Cordite

Philip Salom’s Alterworld reviewed in Cordite by Graeme Miles, September 2015

[Excerpt] see Cordite review

Philip Salom’s Alterworld is much more than a standard ‘new and selected’. Two major books, Sky Poems (first published 1987, FACP) and The Well Mouth (2005, FACP) are reworked, and a new collection completes the three. The two previous books were already a closely connected pair: where Sky Poems takes an upward trajectory, developing a sky-like place of apparently unbounded imagination, The Well Mouth is a book of and in the earth, implying all that the downward direction of the human imagination has traditionally meant: death, decomposition, renewal. These were, in short, complementary books, working on the old and deeply rooted antithesis of the sky-like/celestial and the chthonic. The third collection, Alterworld, develops both of these, as well as revisiting and extending some themes from Salom’s numerous other collections. It does not, however, offer a tidy synthesis, nor is it just a Purgatorio, belatedly balancing the earlier Inferno and Paradiso.

Characters, as well as themes, from the previous two books and others of Salom’s collections also return: Mr Benchley, the title character from The Projectionist (1983), reappears, and plays some films, beginning with Olivier as Hamlet and ending somewhere in hell. As in his first poem back in The Projectionist, there is a fire in the projecting room and he’s burned…

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