Soft Sift is Mark Ford's first collection since the widely praised Landlocked was published in 1992. Barbara Everett has remarked of his recent work: 'Mark Ford's poems are so cool that it's mystifying they aren't cold. But they aren't: they are friendly, touching and very funny. His work exhibits an enormous casual elegance of mind and style, producing work that is witty without pose, refined and subtle without evasiveness.'
There are curved stories here, intrigues and quests whose exuberance of plot and sense of quizzical or farcical immersion in the world of appearances is rendered with a light tough and a sure command of tone, staging the conflict between the mind's drift and the 'inflexible etiquette' of form (Gerard Manley Hopkins's 'soft sift / In an hourglass'). The making of these condensed dramas is often the unmaking of the person speaking, whose 'frets and fresh starts' reveal an original sensibility concerned not with self-display but with a general comedy of wrong moves. Mark Ford has been compared to an American Philip Larkin, or an English John Ashbery, but his poetry is in fact, as John Bayley has remarked 'wholly sui generis'.
Mark Ford was born in 1962 in Nairobi, Kenya. He grew up in a number of countries, including Nigeria, America, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong and Bahrain. He has written four collections of poetry: Landlocked (1992), Soft Sift (2001), Six Children (2011), and Enter, Fleeing (2018). He is also the author of Raymond Roussel and the Republic of Dreams (2000), the first English-language biography of the French poet, playwright and novelist Raymond Roussel (1877-1933). His translation of Roussel's Nouvelles Impressions d'Afrique for a parallel text edition published in 2011 was a runner-up for that year's PEN Translation Awards. Mark Ford's other publications include the anthology London: A History in Verse (2012), Thomas Hardy: Half a Londoner (2016), and three collections of essays: A Driftwood Altar (2005), Mr and Mrs Stevens and Other Essays (2011), and This Dialogue of One: Essays on Poets from John Donne to Joan Murray (2014), which was awarded the Poetry Foundation's 2015 Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism. He is a regular contributor to the London Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement and the New York Review of Books.