This is the third volume of poetry by Bamforth, a physician and scientific translator who practices in Strasbourg, France. Open Workings is precisely that--the poet opens various ideas, places, and events and shows us their inner workings. But we find that the workings are not what we expect.

Some of these poems (e.g. "Between the Rhins and the Machars," pp. 20-23) evoke Scottish folk tales and traditions. "The Fever Hospital" (p. 33) alludes to William Carlos Williams's famous poem "Spring and All," which begins, "By the road to the contagious hospital . . . " Several are set in a mining town in the Australian outback. In "A Clear Thought" (p. 39) Bamforth recalls the "scorched mesas / and camel-track droppings / of overland Australia" where he and his wife, "two transients, / (we) were crossing a language / bigger than its markers." The long sequence (30 poems) called "Doing Calls on the Old Portpatrick Road" provides a richly textured view of the life and interactions of a country doctor, one of whose patients asks, "Why do you call it failure now my heart breaks?" (p. 64)


These are somewhat difficult, but exceptionally rewarding, poems. Bamforth has a luscious sense of language--"puddled with gorrochs," "gape-mouthed utterer," "estuary light discharging like the mind," "gorse-fires flickering on the hills." "Doing Calls on Old Portpatrick Road" shows us a world in which, "Looked at one way, I was the village explainer." These 30 poems about village doctoring create an ecology and social history, reminiscent of A Fortunate Man (see annotation in this database), John Berger's prose evocation of the life of a rural doctor.



Place Published

Manchester, United Kingdom



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