The centrepiece of 'Silent Highway' is the title-poem which celebrates the role of the river Thames in the life of London.

It is written as a sequence that looks at history and the present: from Pocahontas's voyage to the arrival of the 'Windrush' bringing immigrants from Jamaica, the

mysterious death of Roberto Calvi and the 'Marchioness' disaster, via the Fire of London and many incidents in which the river has been spectator or participant.

Howell's mix of verse styles and skill with cameos ensures that interest never flags. In other poems he demonstrates his pleasure in avoiding the predictable and in

writing on a wide variety of subjects. Among the many poems of place, in which he excels, are some disturbing descriptions of modern Britain; in the final section,

poems inspired by a winter spent in Brazil, he has surprises in store, such as the witty (and true) poem 'In Praise of Shopping'.


Review in Stride Magazine ("Viva Exurbia):


Meanwhile, in Silent Highway, Anthony Howell adopts the role of cicerone as he leads readers through a well-observed and varied collection that conjures disturbing descriptions of modern Britain

and explores the relationship between history and the present. 

Howell's poetry enjoys the comfort that one can expect from good research well spread throughout a collection, particularly in the collection's central sequence 'Silent Highway', which invokes the

(in order of appearance) the Fire of London, Pocohontas' voyage, the arrival of Jamaican immigrants upon the Windrush and the mysterious death of Roberto Calvi. Through these ranging references,

the poem explores in lurid detail the river's ever-changing persona, I enjoyed his ranging use of diverse and assured reference which evokes in lyric a portrait of the river Thames and its integral role in

the evolution of London and laid the foundations for the development of the nation we see today. 

    Downstream, where the river widens, 
    Eager to engage the seas it bullied in imperial times – 
    When 'all the liquid world was one extended thames' – 
          (from 'Uncle Rufus')

These are elegant poems which demonstrate Howell's talent for avoiding the predictable and deconstructing the recognisable. In 'The Deserted Garage' the speaker delivers a eulogy to an abandoned

petrol station and appears caught somewhere between grief at the passing of a business that supplied jobs and mobility

    Cracks have appeared in the concrete and some tough, urbanised 
    Have sprung up. You can't get onto its forecourt with wheels any
    Some circular blocks have been dropped across entrance and exit
    While metal roller blinds have been pulled down in front of its shop. 
         (from 'The Deserted Garage')

and a pleasure in the pastoral that captures the tendency of nature towards rebirth, reminding readers of the impermanence of human industry as he visualises that 

    By the debris of the air machine. Then nettles and vetch will 
    And thorn-trees, and maybe the wild plum and certainly thickets
           of bramble
    Where thrushes will nest, and small creatures running on smaller 
    While bugs and gastropods will come to inhabit an overgrown

Phillip Clement 2015


From "RIVERS OF TIME" - Review in The Poetry Review Summer 2015 by Fiona Moore

There's a river running through the second section of Anthony Howell's Silent Highway, but a very different one: the Thames, overflowing with not-at-all-silent history. These poems are packed with research, from

Gog and Magog to the Marchioness disaster; some bristle with capital letters. Much of the detail is absorbing, though it can risk overwhelming the poetry. Written in a variety of forms and in styles that range from

the low-key to the mock-heroic ("Apotheosis! Arsenals of the sky / Ablaze" is how the sequence starts), the poems work best when Howell deploys his facility with rhythm and rhyme. Part of 'Windrush' is in

the voice of a Jamaican whose Spitfire pilot father never returned from the war:

"When Mr Harold Wilson make a bonfire of Controls We come to Great Britain to repair their holes. 

And when me see the chimneys ranged along the shore Me say with all them factories no one can be poor."

The next part contains a long and fascinating passage on Thames thieves from mudlarks to "heavy horsemen" who

"...generally went furnished with habiliments

designed to hide all manner of commodities: Sugar, coffee, cocoa and pimento,

carried on shore by means of an under waistcoat

Harbouring pockets all round, and also surreptitious bags, pouches, socks

Tied to their midriffs underneath their trowsers."

Many poems in the rest of the book convey a sense of ennui. As with the river sequence, the more memorable have a clear rhythm and/or rhyme scheme - such as 'The Deserted Garage', which has long, rhyming lines:

"that rusted compressor / Lying on one bent and eroded support like some defunct grass-hopper". This comes from the book's third section, 'Seeing Myself,' which is full of landscapes that are edgelands or have an

edgeland feel, or contain an edgeland relationship ('Tryst in a Suburb'). The women who appear here and there tend to be somewhat objectified. A poem that stands out is Seeing Myself, a nine-liner at the end of this

section. It allows the reader more imaginative space than much of Silent Highway. It outlines, very lightly, a boy flicking stones at the sea, stones "Used by the sea already, those that fit".

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