Book Review: Expecting Miracles, by Peter Bland

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cv_expecting_miraclesPeter Bland’s Expecting Miracles is a collection of poetry that explores the many emotions tied to memory. By touching on subjects of loss that are close to the heart, Bland crafts a nostalgia that invites the reader to also reminisce.

‘Expecting Miracles’ is also the title of the opening poem, a piece of work that was written in memory of Bland’s wife. Through snippets of recollection, Bland fondly crafts this memory back to life. His language brings meaning and grandeur to even the most commonplace occurrence, from a game of cricket, to the image of blonde hair streaming back in the wind. This is where his work finds strength: creating a strong picture by focusing on specific moments in time and place.

From this opening piece, the poet becomes the primary narrator of the collection. Through his memories, the reader learns the people and places he treasures. The grandeur of his language emphasises this connection to the great loves of his past, when he was “young / and the road never-ending”.

Bland’s poetry also explores other characters beyond the poet. Through these characters, his writing also experiments with a magical realism that is both haunting and striking. In ‘The portable pond’, a man carries around a remnant of his past—a pond near his childhood home—and is never quite able to get rid of it. This childhood love is what stops him from being able to truly start a new life. These stories are, in a way, alternate forms of expressing the poet’s preoccupation with memory. I most enjoyed these touches of fantasy as they allowed a distinctive outlook on a common theme.

However, there were only a few works of prose poetry such as ‘The portable pond’. I felt that these pieces were the strongest and found myself savouring them much more as they best-suited Bland’s style of storytelling. His works of prose poetry felt significantly smoother compared to the constant use of enjambment in his works of verse. I felt that this was jarring against the nostalgic atmosphere that Bland had so effectively set up at the beginning.

Due to this, sometimes I felt a lack of coherence in Expecting Miracles. Although I could identify main themes such as memory, the order that Bland’s poems followed on from each other was not strongly linked. The beginning worked well as it asked questions about remembering, about hoping for things that had come to pass, but I felt this theme got a bit lost in the middle; there were an array of memories from different standpoints with no concrete order.

However, the collection gained traction again with an ending that attempted to find a solution these questions. In this way, Expecting Miracles finds strength in its beginning and ending. At its end, it turns again both to magical realism and the real. It then delves back to even older memories and what to do when, in the end, all you have left is recollection.

Reviewed by Emma Shi

Expecting Miracles
by Peter Bland
Published by Steele Roberts
ISBN 9781927242902