Equipage Press http://www.cambridgepoetry.org/equipage.htm
There is a sudden immediacy about the poetry of John James which can almost catch you in the back of the throat. I think that it’s the clarity of truthfulness to experience; the absolute sense of being there.
This is what Andrew Crozier was perhaps getting at in his ‘To John James’ from the 1969 Ferry Press collection, Walking on Grass:
There he suddenly is
on the other side of the street in search of
an elusive motor, or the nearest opening time,
and for a second it looked quite filmic because
he was with you a moment ago.
The poetry shares a quality of exactness with Antonio Machado, whose ‘Poem of a Day’ written at Baeza in 1913, gives us such palpability:
Outside drizzle falling,
thinning sometimes into mist,
sometimes turning to sleet.
Picturing myself a farmer,
I think of the planted fields.
This new sequence of John James’s poems, twelve sections written at La Manière (Langue d’Oc) in January 2013, is simply very moving; it is a sequence which one wants to return to time and time again. It places the smallest of individual moments, accurately recorded, against the backdrop of human frailty and being. Life is made up of the small moments intruding into which ‘a sudden enormity / changes everything’. Life at La Manière has a ‘tranquillity’ which ‘is difficult simplicity’. It has room for Art, the ‘word the / inscription writ large’
a letter from you
out of Peru
in your calligraphy
is better than graffiti
like a trace
of a bird
in the snow
a trembling stem
lets fall a bead
of rain at night
In the reflective and reflecting eye of the poet ‘lost objects / will be revealed’ and I am moved to look at Pound’s Canto 95 from Section: Rock-Drill:
LOVE, gone as lightening,
Shall the comet cease moving
or the great stars be tied to one place!
This absolutely indispensable chapbook of poems, poems to live with, can be obtained from Rod Mengham at Jesus College, Cambridge CB5 8BL.
Ian Brinton 20th June 2014