Reviews

Fossil Sunshine

One of the most interesting Irish writers to emerge in recent years [...] a willingness to experiment with form and to question the very nature of poetry […] Others in the sequence are typical of the lyrical grace which is such an attractive feature of his work. [...] As occurs throughout the collection, the geologists’s lexis is employed to great effect but is more than decoration or scientific shorthand; it is part of the poetry [...] McKimm’s ecological warnings go far beyond polemic: this work is to be enjoyed both for its arguments and its artistry.

Paul Maddern, Poetry Ireland Review

Michael McKimm’s Fossil Sunshine (Worple Press) was written to help present the scientific evidence for climate change.  Appropriately enough, McKimm follows Tennyson – a keen champion of science – in imagining, in “Riptide”, a modern-day Kraken rising from the seabed, with terrifying consequences: “what’s incubated in the depths now free / swollen, then breathing… / and quickening in water”. Tennyson’s leviathan can sleep until Judgement Day: if we are as close to the carbon trigger as scientists believe, that could be sooner than we think. Read these poems!

Andrew McCulloch, Times Literary Supplement

Fossil Sunshine really is differently-angled to most of the collections you’ll have read recently [...] These poems are vigorous, ambiguous and even visionary. In them we see mankind’s power as much as our malign influence, the frailty of nature as much as its resilience. They want us to think about these issues, but will not do the thinking for us. [...] I’d recommend these poems, for their grit and grain as much as their environmental concerns, for their humble belief in human ingenuity as much as their clear-eyed warning about where it seems to be taking us.

Martyn Crucefix – read the full review here.

The language employed by this poet is powerfully tactile.  [The poems in Fossil Sunshine] are strong and in every sense grounded poems which are also capable of transformative action and insight into the bedrock of our life experience.  For what lies under the soles of our shoes and the foundations of our houses but bedrock?  Be his subject a calendar year depicting erosions or a prose poem about a fossil sea sponge, the reader is engaged and enthralled by the range and consideration that gives each poem its specific and enthralling individuality.

Penelope Shuttle

This collection presents a perspective that remains resolutely focused on the overlooked textures and colours of the rock underfoot. McKimm particularly delights in inclusions – the combinations of different rock classes in one place, often near the sea – and has found in the esoteric jargon of geology a wealth of subtle metaphors for his poetry. [...] one of poetry’s great powers is to make things we take for granted seem new – the power of estrangement – and it seems to be McKimm’s point that any decisions about how we reconcile our use of fossil sunshine with our need to continue inhabiting the planet have a surprisingly vast scale to relate to. The lessons of rocks are not simple, but subtle. [...] There is no simplistic ‘green’ message here, just a cool, geological look at the change man is bringing to the world. [...] Perhaps with his eyes attuned to see beauty in the inorganic, McKimm has learnt to see past a polarised view of the ‘exploitation’ of the earth. Perhaps he suggests that we should, too?

Martin Noutch, London Grip - read the full review here.

Restrained in tone, carefully mixing the scientific and the lyrical, the poems of Fossil Sunshine remind the reader that the relationship between humanity and nature mainly proceeds not in dramatic leaps but in small steps – like the new sections of pipework that, even now, might be snaking along yards below our feet.

Michael Thomas, Under the Radar magazine – read the full review here

Attempting an artistic twist to fieldwork and scientific reports, usually categorised as somewhat hermetical, is a highly audacious task. […] Yet McKimm skilfully incorporates conference notes into his pamphlet, demonstrating the harmonious interdisciplinary fusion he seeks. […] While the playful musical sonorities and rhythmic flow are constants throughout the work, the use of form is more experimental and varies from one poem to the next.  […]Throughout, scientific veracity is preserved, but “translated” in such a way that invite a wider audience to engage with unequivocal environmental realities.

Emilie Balloux, Durham University of the Art Review – read the full review here

Fossil Sunshine shows the ground beneath our feet in a whole new light. In these poems, the language of geology is both poetic and political: basalt and limestone, quartz and jasper become urgent works of art. Michael McKimm’s words ring against the rocks.

Erica Wagner

Poetica: Critiques of Poetry and Poetics: a short essay about Fossil Sunshine by Joel Weishaus,

Still This Need

Still This Need is a multidimensional map of the personal, historical and natural. The reader is instilled with a  sense, crucially, of their place in the world rather than dominance of it. Rather than preaching, McKimm gently prods the reader to wake up, to look at what is in front of them…Although this is only a first collection, it is wholly realized. The collection’s crystalline images and melodic lines alone are worth the purchase. But it is his cartographer’s eye – caring, careful, precise – which leaves the reader with the feeling they’ve been somewhere beautiful.

Jennifer Matthews, Verbal

It is very much a proper collection.  There are no fat nor empty gestures within, no fireworks that glisten briefly before fading away, no showing off nor grandstanding. Just poetry at its very finest. Honestly hewn from a poet comfortable in his landscape and at home with the very business of writing poetry before being generously handed over to the reader with a minimum of fuss….This really is a magnificent debut collection and you are left with the overriding feeling that this is only the beginning of what will become an intriguing and fascinating journey. You really should get in there early and buy this book.

Matt Nunn, Under The Radar

McKimm is a lyric poet with a finely-honed gift for observation, especially of landscapes and nature, and a surefooted grasp of rhythms that renders his work gloriously musical…but he also springs all sorts of little surprises that help set him apart from a number of other promising young poets….he frequently dodges the default persona of many a male poet under the age of 45 – streetwise, occasionally cynical, always ironic – and instead adopts something altogether more vulnerable, more emotionally direct….a collection that repeatedly takes the current moment as the only certainty, and writes and rewrites past and future around it. If that gives him huge scope to expand on this superb beginning, that’s something to be grateful for.

Matt Merritt, Polyolbion

Readers who cherish Northern Irish landscape will find in McKimm a source of great promise….Stillness pervades this collection; still moments listening to the call of a creature in the night, memories that ‘soar still beyond the boundaries’ (‘Cemetery’), the stillness of water, the becalmed relationships which ended his parents’ letter writing.  Particularly impressive in scope are the sequence poems such as ‘The Lammas Lands’, a poetic account of the water-course through Hackney Marsh….he examines the cost to the countryside of human progress.  McKimm portrays creatures at the limit of human contact, representing a world almost lost.

F.J. Williams, The Warwick Review

His mode of observation may be nearly Wordsworthian, but McKimm is not merely concerned with the act of looking and seeing; his work is far more sensually evocative….The language in ‘The Moose’, as in most of the collection, is simple — sometimes surprising — but never abrasive. The collection leans on tradition with its attention to naturalism, geography, and in particular, ornithology, but opens itself up to the reader most successfully when observation is transcended by the sensual.

Charlotte Newman, Horizon Review