'Partial Shade' is the common gardening term for plants that in fact need a measure of sunshine. In John Birtwhistle's poems, there is a continual play of light and shadow – and even glimpses of 'full sun'.
This selection from his own work does not follow chronology. It is an entirely fresh ordering, in which poems converse and argue with each other across the years. Lines about politics, parenting, mortality, art (and love, 'that bookish theme') are plaited together, intimate yet distinct.
Partial Shade is a new book for new readers. It makes available poems from out-of-print collections, as well as substantial new poems. The rhythm varies from lyric and narrative poems to 'haiku-like miniatures: agile, mobile and eventful' (Hugh Haughton). 'John Birtwhistle is a marvellously versatile intellectual gadfly of a poet. No sooner do we think that we know his manner, his theme, than he is off elsewhere, teasing, amusing, throwing out possibilities like sweets strewn along a woodland path.' (Michael Glover)
The poetry is distinguished by deep feeling conveyed with visual precision, careful phrasing and formal clarity. Peter Jay writes of 'These lucid, witty, tender poems, full of felicitous surprises and unexpected turns of imagination', whilst Imtiaz Dharker finds them 'So rich in scope and style, with surprising shifts and echoes'.