Almost half of Shane McCrae’s The Gilded Auction-Block is set in Hell, where the poet is led around by a swearing robot bird. This seems like something worth mentioning. The fact that one newspaper recently reviewed the book without mentioning it at all also seems worth mentioning, for two reasons.
First, because it’s a testament to the sheer amount of other stuff going on this remarkable collection. Second, because it’s part of a wider trend in the reception of poetry – celebrating the anecdotal and autobiographical, highlighting poems which can be presented as an account of the poet’s life, and shying away from those which can’t. It’s something I’ve been guilty of myself, but in the case of work as rich and ambitious as McCrae’s it seems like a disservice.
Yes, his poetry draws on his own fascinating story (of which more later), but also on a host of others,