Listed in the Listener’s 2021 10 Best Books of Poetry
Bryan Walpert’s fourth collection of lyric poems ranges in its focus from flowers to infinities, from laundry to eternity, but is founded most fully on what it is to move into middle age – to wait for life’s promised brass band to arrive.
Whether writing from the perspective of a parent watching childhood slip away or ventriloquising the 17th-century scientific language of Robert Hooke and Robert Boyle to craft surprising love poems, he engages the world with a keen and often witty perception, a deft juggling of the sentence, and a sense of wonder.
Frequently playful in approach, the poems are always serious in their engagement with the bewildering nature of time passing – of growing up and growing older.
“Language-wise, a Bryan Walpert poem code-switches so beautifully – it reflects the tumble of language, what it is to be alive. One minute we’re with the domestic musings of a father watching his daughter use an electric toothbrush, the next contemplating a scientific theory from the 17th century. The world is houses, gardens, pianos, ideas, feelings. The result is an excitingly rich text. But Bryan’s lyric, although it takes the everything into its maw, is deceptively simple, as it sneaks in idea, image, emotion. The three constants of being in the world, thing, thought, feeling, are always there. Bryan plays them like an instrument to tell about ourselves.” – Anne Kennedy
“More than anything, he is acutely aware of words, their appropriateness, their reverberation, their flexibility…Walpert’s fourth collection is a glorious summoning of the power of words to unsettle, soothe, divert, translate. It is deeply personal, intellectually agile and a stimulating read.” – Paula Green (full review on Kete here).
“Walpert’s great strength in much of Brass Band to Follow is in rhythm, in how image meets attitude within the same stanza, and how sparks rise from that meeting…Walpert asks us to cross the wobbly bridge between icy academic pursuits in language and the concrete world, where each of us are only trying to reach each other in whatever way we can. The collection reaches backwards to call on poetic traditions, inwards to the poet-self, and always, crucially, outwards, not only to the people familiar to the poet, but to the ‘you’, the me, the reader, of whom Walpert is always aware.” – Sophie van Waardenberg, Academy of New Zealand Literature (full review here).
“…empathetic and wry observations on coming to terms with being middle-aged. Walpert avoids solemnity with neat self-referential postmodern jibes and wraps it up with intriguing imagery related to classical science.” – Nicholas Reid, New Zealand Listener
“…witty and perceptive. Walpert’s poems are like photographs…Walpert offers a plethora of extended moments of clarity.” – Otago Daily Times