Walking, getting lost, and finding that home is half way between refuge and a place to look out from at the unsettling and unsettled world, are the dominant themes in Sarah Corbett’s fifth collection. Written from an intimate knowledge of the countryside of the Calder Valley, many of these poems respond to a landscape as beautiful as it is disquieting, troubled by a warming climate and by violence and loss both public and private. A central sequence – part found poem, part assemblage – draws on the Grasmere Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth, poems that question the nature of the visionary, the in-between worlds that this poet claims as her territory; here nature is held up as a mirror where we might see ourselves and our actions reflected. Over all haunts the presence-in-absence of Sylvia Plath, whose burial place the author can see from her bedroom window. Throughout, interior lights – a train on a dark morning, a sudden snowfall, moonlight and starlight, sun on lake water, the love between a parent and child – attempt to balance the darkness.
'Mature, intense, necessary – in turbulent times, the poems of A Perfect Mirror haunt and hold the reader, showcasing the gifts of a poet as accomplished in evoking the natural world as she is in communicating a powerful psychic landscape. Deploying imagery at once idiosyncratic, apposite and utterly memorable, with an remarkable feel for the line, and terrific sonic effects, Corbett never fails to move and excite, prompting me to return again and again to wonder, with not a little envy: how does she do it? Here is a talent who illumines darkness with a fierce emotional and intellectual rigour. There can be no doubt: Sarah Corbett is one of the finest, most essential poets now writing.'
'A Perfect Mirror flickers more secrets about the Calder Valley into view than a mirror ever could. Marvelling at moss and the moon of ice, elsewhere plying the mystery of puddles, these miraculous poems nurse the glint of sun into gold. Even the sky begins to speak, graced by the ghosts of Wordsworth, Plath, Bronte and Austen, as scaling each hill entails a hike into the imagination, “where the mind goes gliding beyond the shores of its ocean... moving towards a horizon we will never touch”.'
Jade Cuttle, Poetry Book Society
'Often, cautious students of poetry worry that their poems oughtn’t be about one ‘controversial’ thing or another. What Corbett has shown is that they should take the opposite approach: fill their poems with all the savages and saints which make up the human condition. Only then will the mirror of poetry be perfect.'
Jake Campbell, Poetry School
Corbett’s writing on nature is both jubilant and troubled, lit by the joys of exploring the countryside of West Yorkshire, but equally alert to environmental problems caused by humans...When Corbett lets her enthusiasm for the natural world loose her writing is energizing...
Suzannah V. Evans, Times Literary Supplement
Corbett proves herself throughout these poetic depictions of nature to be a timeless and sensual writer. She is subtly sonnet-like in her portrayal of opposing concepts, pitting safety and surety against risk, the rural against the urban, the here versus the elsewhere, and the then versus the now.
Biana Pellet, The London Magazine