Here is a review in its entirety (warts and all!) by Patrick Osada: "Webber is clearly a talented poet. He is able to express a range of emotion & to employ different styles and techniques to engage with his readers. My only criticism is that sometimes he tries too hard. Take his Drinker's sonnet (a parody of Shakespeare's Sonnet xviii). " Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" becomes "Shall I compare thee to a brewer's dray?"....and continues in similar vein to the final line of the toast. All skilfully done ( &, I'm sure, people will chuckle), but the overall effect is of someone trying desperately hard to be funny..............We can see the blood, sweat & tears, the wheels of the poem going round.
To be 100% successful with parody, the poem must appear effortless. Using as his starting place Carol Ann Duffy's collection, The World's Wife (in which Duffy tells the stories of famous men in history from the spouse's point of view), Webber comes up with his addition to the genre, Mrs. Chaucer.
Whereas Shakespeare's Sonnet xviii is so well known that it works against Webber's parody, Duffy's Mrs. Aesop is less familiar, allowing Webber to borrow her form and style, whilst producing a poem that appears engaging and fresh. He also cunningly produces an extrovert "larger than life" Chaucer, the opposite to the timid and tedious Aesop. ..............".Quiet men, Mrs. Chaucer," he'd say, "tell no tales. Well let me tell you now that a tale in his hands was hard to believe, never mind the two he had up his sleeve. Fabulous." (Mrs. Chaucer).
Humour is frequently used in Webber's poems, often to make serious points. In Britain from space he remarks that.....A spendthrift nation lights up space-....................... ..................And if you look really carefully at eleven - twenty GMT you can just see the pubs closing......... (Britain from space)
I feel Webber is at his best with his more serious work & that poems like Platonic lot ; Waverley station; He cares, & The last dance speak with the resonance of experience. These poems contain universal truths that should engage with all readers.........For example, Webber's description of waking from a night of passion in First Light : As you emerge from two dimensions into three, my thoughts are cast to how we'll never be again.......... .....I want back the selfish night, you made no shadows in the dark. (First light)
I believe John Webber is a poet to watch. Private Histories is a well-crafted first collection."