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Battling Against the Odds is a joyful, witty and stimulating collection of poetry about the game of golf and the sport of life. At its heart is a sequence of 18 golf holes where players struggle to meet the challenge of their chosen sport. In spite of the reality that a ball can be “subject to mysterious disappearance”, the poems also celebrate the delight of occasional and outrageous success.
The golf course features a Half Way House and a Nineteenth Hole and is the setting for a birth, a death, two hauntings, three curses (of varous kinds) and “a plaintive blues”. The collection ends with a homage to Tom Watson’s heroics at The Open in 2009 and a memorial to the elderly neighbour who introduced the poet to golf at the age of ten.
The mixture of hope and frustration expressed here means readers who are not familiar with the delights of golf will find plenty to enjoy. As Carol Ann Duffy said of Oliver’s earlier work, it “…can be read and re-read with deepening pleasure”.