The two searching sequences that bookend this collection are not so much elegies as unfinished conversations with friends no longer living – friendships lost or neglected, with their closeness and distances sensitively mapped. This is Philip Gross’s writing at its most hospitable, lit up by a sense of personal address, both tactful and deeply engaged. The sea that is always in sight, between us and beyond us, is more than a metaphor. It is another conversation – with the real sea of this planet, used and abused and in need of our care. Between the Islands is Philip Gross’s 26th book of poetry, and his 11th from Bloodaxe.
At the heart of all of Gross's collections has been his deep enquiry into and fascination with the nature of embodiment and existence – what water is and does in The Water Table, the role of language, and speech especially, in identity and the self in Deep Field and Later. Now in Love Songs of Carbon Gross tests and feels his amazed way through the mysteries of the multiple manifestations of love and ageing... Such exactitude of feeling and image is typical of all Gross's work, and no less inventively in this new collection. Characteristic too is his focused, sustained approach across the whole book: Love Songs of Carbon asks to be read as a song-book, to use the terms of its presentation, curated for the reader to turn and return to. From poem to poem, pace and metrics quicken and still and quicken again as the book progresses. -- John Burnside & Jane Draycott * PBS Bulletin *