Private and public worlds collide in Paul Henry’s second collection. A cast that includes, amongst others, butchers, teachers, hairdressers, mechanics and town planners sustains this poet’s awareness of human strengths and frailties. Acutely portrayed in the moving middle sequence, where the fall from grace of an elderly father is charted, familial tensions occur throughout Captive Audience.
Fatherless friends, sisterly cousins, brothers who ‘clench their grins and pebbly fists’, the helplessly ’saved and damned’ subjects of ’The Breath of Sleeping Boys’, all convey Henry’s ability to simultaneously praise and elegise. Elsewhere, in poems such as ’For X and Y’, ’Love Birds’ and ’Recital’, he skilfully ’adjusts the volume’ of his work between music and silence. This book confirms Paul Henry’s position as an original voice in contemporary poetry.