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Poetry review Complex questions about being proved right

Cassandra Complex
by Jonathan Taylor
(Shoestring Press, £10)


“THERE is a wind-up Nostradamus/in your head. Just for tonight/let him wind down, shut curtains/on Cassandras crowding like triffids.”


Thus Jonathan Taylor in Teleology, one of the poems in his stunning new collection. Director of the MA in creative writing at the University of Leicester, he has a long-held interest in Cassandra, both in the ancient Greek myth and the closely connected psychological condition which he describes as the “I told you so” complex.


Using prophets and prophecies from the ancient, historical and mythological worlds, as well as looking at “Cassandras” today, the collection adopts many different voices and vantage points. They are structured in four movements which build together to form a symphony — a captivating experience.


Some of the most thought-provoking poems are about contemporary society, where capitalism fails to deliver but the never-ending promise is of better times to come. This “jam tomorrow” philosophy forces us to keep to a particular road, despite few believing the promise or the flashing danger signs ahead.


And there are poems where the prophecies are a retrospective makeover in the light of subsequent events and only proved true in hindsight.


Taylor thinks that this is maybe the fate of poetry as a whole, to be interpreted then later reinterpreted.


“Poets are often the kind of people who want to say: 'I told you so' to the future,” he says.


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