Illuminated by bright flashes of rueful wit, this is a collection to savour. But don’t let the conversational tone of Wynn Wheldon’s poems fool you: they smile and take you by the hand and then pierce you with little needles of pathos or loss, as sharp and fiery as Cupid’s arrows.
Here are big themes: sex and death, gods and monsters. 'I could consult The Golden Bough or Sigmund Freud and find all sorts of explanation' declares the poet. But turn instead to his frank, erotic, beguiling poems. Here are the traces of a life, the passage through it, the innocence and experience, the successes and failures, the sacred and profane, here is youth and maturity, mortality, desire, and the cooling of desire. Here we find Dionysus, a phoenix and canoeists from Birmingham. Above all, memory - the curve of a breast, the smell of sex, light falling on water - fleeting sensual impressions that will in turn linger on in the mind of the reader. I love these poems.
Private Places is a full collection in the best sense. It is redolent with thought, in its own voice, full of perception, 'The hillsides weep into the reservoir', and fine irony, 'She gave herself to someone sound.../Who did not euphemise desire with books'.