If All the World and Love Were Young

If All the World and Love Were Young

'Every poem in this book is a marvel. Taken all together they make up a work of almost miraculous depth and beauty' Sally Rooney'A poetry debut fit to compare with Seamus Heaney. This wonderful long poem is up there with the greats' Sunday TimesShortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection When Stephen Sexton was young, video games were a way to slip through the looking glass; t/>Shortlisted/>/>'A/> 'Every poem in this book is a marvel. Taken all together they make up a work of a...

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Title:If All the World and Love Were Young
Author:Stephen Sexton
Rating:

If All the World and Love Were Young Reviews

  • Zeba Clarke

    I really loved this collection. I read a review which intrigued me because the book is about the poet's memories of the years when as a teenager he played Super Mario World whilst his mother was going through treatment for cancer. It's dense, allusive, it sounds beautiful, and it demands reading and re-reading. I can see it would not be every person's cup of tea, but I found it very beautiful and heartbreaking.

    There is a section at the end called CREDITS which is a guide to all the influences a

    I really loved this collection. I read a review which intrigued me because the book is about the poet's memories of the years when as a teenager he played Super Mario World whilst his mother was going through treatment for cancer. It's dense, allusive, it sounds beautiful, and it demands reading and re-reading. I can see it would not be every person's cup of tea, but I found it very beautiful and heartbreaking.

    There is a section at the end called CREDITS which is a guide to all the influences and allusions that Sexton makes, and it is worth going through it when rereading the poems to see where and how the echoes and resonances come from. As an English teacher, I would love to work on this collection with students, although I suspect it might do their heads in! Just an extraordinary window into the human mind and the experience of grief.

  • rosamund

    I’ve been looking forward to this collection for months, having admired Stephen Sexton’s work since I first heard him read from his pamphlet,

    . I was not disappointed! This is an imaginative, moving and fresh narrative poem. The title,

    , comes from a pastoral poem by Walter Raleigh, while the poems themselves follow the structure of

    , each section named after a level of the game. This collision of lyric tradition and innovative, modern references is a defi

    I’ve been looking forward to this collection for months, having admired Stephen Sexton’s work since I first heard him read from his pamphlet,

    . I was not disappointed! This is an imaginative, moving and fresh narrative poem. The title,

    , comes from a pastoral poem by Walter Raleigh, while the poems themselves follow the structure of

    , each section named after a level of the game. This collision of lyric tradition and innovative, modern references is a defining element of Sexton’s work.

    Sexton and I are roughly the same age; we are, by the current definition, Millenials. This is the first collection I’ve read that captures something of being born around 1990, filtering life through cultural references, knowing that we live on a dying planet, and wondering what exactly we’ve been handed by earlier generations. Using Super Mario World as a jumping-off point allows Sexton to vividly explore the ways in which we’re indebted to pop-culture and how it defines not only our conversations, but our internal landscapes. He explores the expansiveness of video games, and the joy of escapism, as well as the ways in which it limits us.

    At the same time, Sexton is writing lyric elegies, and is well aware of the poetic tradition of Northern Ireland, and the broader English-speaking world. This collection centres on the death of a mother, and uses both the structure of a video game and the traditions of writing about grief to explore a huge personal loss. Sexton uses long, expansive lines, setting the scene of ‘Yoshi’s Island’, “the archipelago aswim with joyful blue-white puffer fish” over “the idle effacement of dying / the many prickles of needles of many exotic compounds.”

    This use of long lines paired with unusual imagery means the collection does not immediately yield its emotional weight to the reader. Instead, the reader travels to ‘Donut Plains’, where “Kappa swarmed in every colour under a waxing crescent moon” or to ‘Forest of Illusion’, as the reader encounters Sexton’s gift for imagery of the natural world,

    The realities of death and loss are brought gradually to the reader’s attention, allowing their impact to be experience on many different levels, such as the loss of an imagined future, the loss of faith in the body, the loss a companion, the loss of a way of being, the loss of family. Sexton is very much in control of his work: he brings the reader with careful and exact patience to the heartbreak, so that we become part of the journey of loss.

    aids him in this: it allows the reader to share an internal landscape with the narrator of the poems, so that we we feel the grief as our own, so that when the narrator says, “this is the wrong universe among all the universes,” we are with him.

    The section, ‘Valley of Bowser’, towards the end of this collection brings us to the heart of the emotional landscape. We are in a “deep blue sea” where “swells a sense of falling down through the bottom of the world.” We have come to the edges of language. We meet the narrator’s mother in hospital, where the narrator feels, “I’ve been here so long I think I hear my children passing the door.” The section is full of echoes of other parts of life, or lives unlived, “The portable television we brought from home is standing by,” acting as a portal to one of these worlds. The loss of a future is symbolised by the act of speech as the mother says, “No grandchildren and no first steps and never again a first word.” We learn the mother’s first word was “apple”, and when the narrator realises the mother can no longer speak to him, he returns to this word in a deeply moving elegy, “what kind of story do I tell apple is the longest story / I know let’s see how does it go again apple apple apple”

    Sexton has a fantastic gift for capturing an internal space and making it accessible to the reader. He writes with maturity and patience, allowing his elegies to enter the reader’s mind, and creating an intimacy and as well as an expansive view of the modern world. The idea of centring a collection around a video game might feel gimmicky in lesser hands, but here it lends only depth and focus to the word. Sexton’s voice and his work feel entirely fresh and entirely assured: what he is doing may be new, but he is completely in control. I am moved, excited and enthralled by this collection.

    Full disclosure: I have never in my life played

    .

  • Lucy Howard-Taylor

    One of those rare and precious books: the world seems different after reading it.

  • Lee

    Some poems seemed to less successfully circle the same things others absolutely nailed, and for me it was a question of opacity: when the poems are more quotidian and less obscure they work better.

    Front Door

    In through the translucent panels of the front door stained

    with roses

    here and there their green stems wander sun patterns the

    cavernous hall

    with rose outlines the wood panelled box came sharp-cornered

    the TV

    so heavy to look at it cut into my clavic

    Some poems seemed to less successfully circle the same things others absolutely nailed, and for me it was a question of opacity: when the poems are more quotidian and less obscure they work better.

    Front Door

    In through the translucent panels of the front door stained

    with roses

    here and there their green stems wander sun patterns the

    cavernous hall

    with rose outlines the wood panelled box came sharp-cornered

    the TV

    so heavy to look at it cut into my clavicle was it

    full of cannonballs and was it carried on four or six or eight

    sets of shoulders into the room such impossible heaviness

    for the size of it and was it full of tinctures puzzled colours

    picture elements their sweep rates flashing across it when I saw

    my reflection in the blackness of its face.

    Neighbours came over their fences a summer day but dark with storms:

    a deluge impassable roads the forest lurching on the hill.

    I felt my head turn into stone no it wasn't the old TV

    we carried her to the windows the meteor that time of year

    Perseids only sparks really the Irish Sea fell from the sky

    in bullets through the afternoon and Kong Kappa no King Koopa

    navigates his ship through the storm an engine or

    thunder rumbles.

    Electrons pooled under the clouds the room was heavy with ions.

    I held my breath in the lightning the sea fell into the garden.

    Evening rose like the river then the flash with all of us in it

    and her voice moves around the edge of the world and now I

    think I

    remember what I mean to say which is only to say that once

    when all the world and love was young I saw it beautiful glowing

    once in the corner of the room once I was sitting in its light.

  • Pickle Farmer

    This was ok. I think I like the idea of this book more than the actual content contained within. It's a collection of poems based on Super Mario and is mainly about a mother's death from cancer and memory. The Super Mario theme is obvs metaphorical for going on a journey, a quest, etc. I liked the poem about the uncle who was a miner, who died in Tasmania, as it creates an interesting parallel with Mario (who's a miner himself of sorts, isn't he?). The comparisons of Mario w Dante were also v in

    This was ok. I think I like the idea of this book more than the actual content contained within. It's a collection of poems based on Super Mario and is mainly about a mother's death from cancer and memory. The Super Mario theme is obvs metaphorical for going on a journey, a quest, etc. I liked the poem about the uncle who was a miner, who died in Tasmania, as it creates an interesting parallel with Mario (who's a miner himself of sorts, isn't he?). The comparisons of Mario w Dante were also v interesting. I loved the poem that had the image of Otzi the Iceman, waiting for thousands of years with berries in his gut, extending a frozen hand. So cool! And the other poem about looking at fossils of dinosaur stampede and wonderig what spooked them. So yeah, as you can see, big theme here of time etc.

    However, there was too much descriptive writing for my personal taste. I found a lot of the poems quite dull to read because I don't like reading endless description; I like lines in which you can hear a voice or personality. For example, I really liked it when the author addressed the reader directly at the end:

    That made me "a

    ." Overall this is a clever idea and obviously very moving and emotionally affecting material but it's a tiny bit gimmicky.

    Some lines I liked (see how direct and plainly stated they are? I just... don't like reading descriptions of mountains and cactuses):

    (I thought this was SUCH a beautiful line about learning to deal with/manage grief about the death of a parent)

    -

  • Caoilinn

    This is an extraordinary, moving collection of poems whose dense, constrained forms are the forms the intellect takes when it is coping; the self takes when it can, as it must; when the subject envelopes. This book is as rich + sustaining, as memorable + inimitable as is the loved one's voice. You will follow it across the Causeway, into the beached whale in Donegal, into the pixelated hyacinths and the heavy rain. With the munificent vocabulary of Alan Gillis and the gut-punched wisdom of Anne

    This is an extraordinary, moving collection of poems whose dense, constrained forms are the forms the intellect takes when it is coping; the self takes when it can, as it must; when the subject envelopes. This book is as rich + sustaining, as memorable + inimitable as is the loved one's voice. You will follow it across the Causeway, into the beached whale in Donegal, into the pixelated hyacinths and the heavy rain. With the munificent vocabulary of Alan Gillis and the gut-punched wisdom of Anne Sexton and Denise Riley, the speaker claims: 'I tried to make a monument from the emptiness of the house.' Sexton has made a monument. Readers: crowd around it.

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