Humphrey Astley is drawn into Oxford poet Jane Draycott's powerful collection of poems

Jane Draycott, The Occupant (Carcanet, 2016)

Oxford poet Jane Draycott's fourth original collection is strangely timely.

With 'the century of the self' giving way to an era in which connectivity and collectives are the driving forces, a book about multiple selves is apt.

The speakers in The Occupant exist on a continuum, the collection's pages like concentric circles.

Poetry is essentially non-linear, after all, and Draycott embraces this two-way effect: following a poem in which an adult appears as a child, 'Lost' declares that 'Sleep is a Russian winter in which / you are a girl again'; next we're told that it would be 'Better perhaps to have been born a tree', not knowing that much later we'll encounter another speaker 'trying to embrace you / long after you've turned into a tree.'

And what if 'the waking world / is so much like the dream' because you become a different person every time you go to sleep, but also when you wake up? 'I do not know who it is that is travelling on this train', the speaker in 'Namesake' confesses – not surprising given the context of 'the multiverse and all our doppelgängers'.

These are not despairing questions, however, and Draycott's personae are not hiders but seekers that have 'been driving east for ever'.

The Occupant's titular central piece is certainly a seeking poem, one in which 'because I cannot sleep I leave / the hothouse of my sheets / and walk the streets'.

Here, in an ingenious example of zeugma, we are told that 'Each plant and planet feels / the inmost drive to move and dream', literally equating the two. The poem is cinematic in both form and content, evoking Tarkovsky or Jeunet with a 'film set in some future city – / narrowed skies, the air electric […] And then I see you there amid / the extras, as if you'd walked in / from the street and been uplifted / to the screen, its living window.'

The book itself is not unlike a living window: a rippling, diaphanous lens that reflects uncertain times with uncertainty of its own.