Wound Up With Love, Clive DonovanThe jacket is white, with a monochrome rectangle of illustration fitting in the centre, and the same shape (but smaller) as the jacket. This illustration is abstract but includes an upside down woman's head and nect, her hand  up to her mouth -- she may be spewaking or shouting. Other shapes are swirly. Possibly a white cross is included. The title is in small caps above the graphic, the author's name in the same small caps below it. The foot of the jacket includes the Lapwing logo (a little lapwing in a box).

Lapwing Publications, 2022    £10.00

Finding new words for an old story

Clive Donovan, or the narrator of this pamphlet, has a love-hate relationship with Love. It starts with the poet in his cave asking why it’s so hard to find love. ‘Love’s Claw’ depicts a ruthless predator that ‘only wants a hook-hold on this planet’.

But the narrator does decide to brave the shivering excitement of ‘First Date’ and step out on to the

       crisp whiteness
Of the virgin snow.

From here on, we’re taken on a journey familiar to readers of Rapture by Carol Ann Duffy or Billy’s Rain by Hugo Williams — the highs and lows of an intense relationship.

As with those collections, the reader of Wound Up With Love is left to judge what’s happened between poems, as well as learning about the relationship’s progress within the poems themselves.

How do you write in a fresh way about such a well-trodden topic? At times it’s hard to tell whether Donovan’s poking fun at the clichés of love-writing or plundering them for all they’re worth.

There are Fifty Shades of Poetry in the ‘The lusty tangling sinuous creature’ of ‘That is Us’. In ‘Seduction’, the narrator acknowledges the reader’s literary baggage via a question mark — ‘Her bosom actually heaves can you believe that?’.

‘Loveland’ portrays a one-star holiday where tourist-trap attractions are undercut and made more poignant by plain speaking — ‘All those crazy best ideas we ever had’.

‘Her Finger Sculpts the Window’ (towards the end of the collection) is even more effective. Its two-verse brevity and nautical imagery pack a tight punch.

Wound Up With Love often has the feel of a poet working out how to convey a fresh, all-consuming romance to us, his jaded readers. But despite — and in some ways because of — the jumping between metaphors, the sincerity of the narrator comes over strongly.

Donovan’s emotional honesty achieves what is vital in a collection like this — making us believe in the reality behind his verse, so that we stick with the poetic story until the very last line.

David Keyworth