The Noise of a Fly by Douglas Dunn review – shortlisted for the TS Eliot prize

Larkin’s influence is still strong in this collection, which illuminates the natural world and the coming of old age

The Hebrew for fly, zvuv, “is surely one of the most magically exact onomatopoeias in any language”, Steven Connor writes in his study of the insect, Fly. News that Douglas Dunn’s poetic muse has taken wing again, 17 years after his last collection, deserves an onomatopoeic outburst of its own of relief and delight. Slacking is hardly a trait one associates with the diligent Dunn, but the opening quatrain, “Idleness”, listens out for “The sigh of an exhausted garden-ghost. / A poem trapped in an empty fountain pen.” There are ghosts and exhaustion aplenty in The Noise of a Fly, shortlisted for next week’s TS Eliot prize, but rarely if ever does the poet find himself stuck for words.

It is almost a half a century since Dunn made his debut with the ...