In his poem 'Old Poet on a Rainy Day', Dale describes writing as "the solitary art" but whilst this might imply isolation, the poems themselves characteristically address another person - a father, wife, daughter or friend - using an intimate imperative. His frequent use of sequences - extracts from which appear on this CD - allows his essentially lyric voice the space for emotional exploration. The tension in the poetry is generated by the attempt to communicate and a frustration that such efforts are never wholly successful, as implied by the title of his acclaimed sonnet sequence 'One Another'. The "I" of the poems is predominantly an "eye", watching the world, often through the separating frame of a window, as in the observation of an ex-schoolgirl in 'Eighth Period' or the woman tending her roses in 'Gift of Words'. This desire for connection finds particularly beautiful expression in 'Vigil' where the narrator watches his sleeping lover and almost escapes the solipsism of the self through love: "Some nights I came near,/my lips in touch/with your pulsing lids/to catch the drift of your dream."
Dale's lyric style is intensely intimate whilst avoiding the histrionic pitfalls of the confessional mode. His formidable formal control is similarly understated, living up to his own injunction that "a poet shouldn't draw attention to his stylistic self; the poem should be a lens through which something crucial is seen." Dale's measured, softly-spoken reading complements this reticence, achieving a cumulative power to, as he says in his sonnet 'Window', "make the darkness personal."
His recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 20 January 2005 at The Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.