(both published by www.knivesforksandspoonspress.co.uk
When I read Ira Lightman’s conversation with Claire Trévien, available online, I was immediately reminded of Charles Tomlinson’s comments in the opening pages of his terrific autobiographical sketches, Some Americans. Tomlinson was writing about when he first came across Pound’s poetry and commented ‘nobody that I knew of could have written more cleanly than that…it was a sense of cleanliness in the phrasing that drew me, still puzzled, to Canto 2’. And, of course, to those lines ‘Lithe turning of water, / sinews of Poseidon, / Black azure and hyaline, / glass wave over Tyro.’
Lightman comments on the influence of Larkin over his work when he started out in the late 80s ‘writing Larkinesque work and being much more interested in what poetry there was in big circulation magazines like the New Statesman or the London Magazine or the TLS’. It was his residence in New Zealand in 1990 that made the real difference, and the real different, as he began reading Modernism, especially Pound, ‘because it’s the key first movement of poets travelling and seeing the whole world , and it allows in non-correct non-standard English. And I was off! But the experience also made me prickly about my old interests in Larkin and so on’. For me it was a reading of Lightman’s ‘Architectural Drawing’ that brought the Tomlinson piece to mind as I recognised what might be meant by ‘cleanliness in the phrasing’:
Schematic housing horizontal
and vertical through the view
enjoins on the council hill
a cornered grid. Its blue
must thin wherever dawn
vellums in the white
of a nostalgic summer’s morn
love always shall sun, right.
All my exes don’t live here
misses taken that miss
much of the innocent viewer
conflagrated in bliss
that I seek. Flashback
retraces at the scene of lack.
One thing about this sharply perceived awareness of loss is the palpability of its existence.
Closer to hand, at Luxembourg rather than New Zealand, Dylan Harris writes poetry and runs the splendid corrupt press that produced Rod Mengham’s chapbook, The Understory, about which I wrote a few days ago. In the second sequence of poems titled ‘the word the world’ Harris writes
not the word
And here I am reminded of the letter sent by Francis Ponge to M. Spada:
Talking, explaining with words, is a matter of moving dirty linen around in an old trunk up in the loft…to create something clean it is necessary to write it down.
It is a joy to look at the writing in these two fine publications, two years apart, from one of the most prolific and intelligent small poetry presses.
Ian Brinton 11th June 2014