Dammtor is the old city gate and now the centre of ground transport for the great port of Hamburg. In James Sheard's second collection it is a 'station for midnights, hitched up on stone legs, hollow with sunken light' - a hub for the damaged and deracinated. These precise, wounded poems draw the reader through this desolate landscape - through sexual longing, sexual violence, bereavement and the beginning of hope through the birth of a son.
Dammtor restlessly narrates the condition of maleness, looking for truth and music in a voice which is both urgent and unadorned. The poems are spoken in solitary places - late-night stations, hotel lobbies, car rides and empty woodland - but they are addressed to the living, the missing, the dead and the just-born.Personal and political narratives leak into the spaces of the poems to form a strange light which has something of the hallucinatory clarity of translations. The voice might be by turn elegaic, vicious, obsessive or bewildered as it explores its topic, but it is accompanied by an eye which will not - or, perhaps, cannot - blink. Finding tenderness amid brutality, Dammtor is a highly accomplished and remarkable collection.