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Alan Baker and Sarah Hayden from the Oystercatcher’s beak

Alan Baker and Sarah Hayden from the Oystercatcher’s beak

all this air and matter by Alan Baker

 

System Without Issue by Sarah Hayden

 

When these two little Oystercatchers arrived in the post they were accompanied by a note from the founder of the Press: ‘A brace of autumnal Oystercatchers for your table, with the compliments of the mizzly, leaf-littered season. These 2 are as alike as a dog & a cog in a pod.’

 

Alan Baker’s poems give us a clear sense of presence as this sequence contemplates ‘what might be made / from all this air and matter’. People and sounds shift their movements across the pages and the conditional ‘as if’ reminds us of a world which is waiting for words to give it shape. Whether reality can be found in ‘grey stone paths and stone-grey sky’ or in ‘wind in the grass’ will be a matter of the associations of language but what can never be doubted from a reading of these poems is that ‘the present has always existed’. It needs the lyrical poet to weave the outlines of a drawing that is ever on the move and so within a sonnet that begins with touches of O’Hara (‘stop for a coffee / at London Road Diner’) the fourth and fifth line move us forward

 

sunny day

 

and windy!

 

The foot of the piece holds the fragile construction up on the page as the waitress emphasises the present

 

in silhouette

as she wedges the wind-blown door

with a piece of cardboard

 

 

Sarah Hayden’s sequence of small-font texts present a feeling of authority from the beginning:

 

This is the song of the daughter born without a mother

This is how she spun out the cold nights when there was none to be tending [to]

This is how flat she lay

This is how clear the lines

How singular the purpose

How glossy her ripolin

And how ineffable her intention

 

That enamelled combination of the smooth, the glossy and the perfected sets a scene for a remarkable sequence of poems which, whilst at some moments eschewing any personal air, at other moments play within the linguistic associations of a lyrical tradition. One of the fascinating qualities of this writing is its ability to both keep the reader at arm’s length and at the same time to present an echoing yearning for attachment. The ‘system’ may be without issue but the interweaving of linguistic associations determine some very palpable issues.

 

Do order both of these splendid books; they are, in their different ways, just the right thing for the cold days ahead.

 

Ian Brinton, December 6th 2013

 

 

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