Even now, as we rise to check on the children where they sleep within earshot of the river, two midwives are rising in darkness to dress for all weathers . . . Eight years after the appearance of Tom French’s award-winning first collection The Fire Step confirms the promise and achievement of his debut. His ‘gift for creating stunning elegiac moments — and the overall effect of measured and often beautiful responses to the inevitable’ (Nua) extends to a number of poems which celebrate his children in subtle and artful tones and rhythms. Other poems attend to everyday facts of ordinary lives — a family moving house, attending a midday recital, the consequences of a wet summer, and a rail commuter’s journey home. As he traces his bloodlines he embraces various generations, while the book encompasses also a race meet on a strand at low tide, a eulogy on the demise of a letterpress printing works, and the rich imaginings of its longer poems. The Fire Step is a book of requiems and salutations. From already auspicious beginnings Tom French arrives at an impressively accomplished, emotionally charged second stage.

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