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Monthly Archives: September 2014

Ian Brinton at Tears in the Fence Poetry Festival

Ian Brinton at Tears in the Fence Poetry Festival

We are delighted that critic, editor, translator and literary historian, Ian Brinton, will be participating in the Tears in the Fence poetry festival, 24-26th October. https://tearsinthefence.com/festival

Ian has not only made a substantial contribution to Tears in the Fence as Reviews Editor but also to English poetry in the past few years. He has edited An intuition of the particular: some essays on the poetry of Peter Hughes (Shearsman 2013) and Thrills and Frills, Selected Prose of Andrew Crozier (Shearsman 2013), Andrew Crozier Reader (Carcanet 2012) and A Manner of Utterance: The Poetry of J.H. Prynne (Shearsman 2009). He has written a series of articles on Black Mountain in England for PN Review, as well as a generous number of reviews for PN Review and other journals, edited Use of English, for the English Association, and written dozens of blog reviews and essays for Tears in the Fence. He has also written Contemporary Poetry: Poets and Poetry since 1990 (Cambridge University Press, 2009), Dickens’ Great Expectations: A Reader’s Guide (Continuum, 2007) and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights: A Reader’s Guide (Continuum, 2011). He co-edits the occasional review, SNOW, with Anthony Barnett, and serves as an adviser for the Cambridge University Poetry archive. He has become a familiar and smiling presence at a great many poetry events.

Ian has translated Yves Bonnefoy, with Michael Grant, published in two pamphlets by Oystercatcher in 2013:

The Ravine

There was only a sword thrust
Into the mass of stone.
With rusted hilt, the ancient iron
Had turned the flank of the grey stone red.
And you knew you had to have the courage to take hold
Of such absence in both hands, and wrench
The dark flame out of its vein of night.
Words were scrawled in the blood of the stone,
They spoke of the way of knowledge and of dying.

Enter the depth of absence, distance yourself,
The port is here in the scree
A bird song
Will be your guide on the new bank.

We are thrilled and honoured to be welcoming Ian to the Festival. He will be an active participant. Please come along, meet Ian, and hear him talk.

David Caddy 29th September 2014

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The Footing Anthology (Longbarrow Press, 2013)

The Footing Anthology (Longbarrow Press, 2013)

An anthology of poems by Angelina Ayers, James Caruth, Mark Goodwin, Rob Hindle, Andrew Hirst, Chris Jones, Fay Musselwhite.

(www.longbarrowpress.com)

The introduction by Brian Lewis sets the scene for this highly attractive anthology of poems which is the ‘result of a long-term engagement with the ideas and practices of walking; an engagement that, in many cases, starts at home.’ Brian reflects upon the idea attributed to Wordsworth that walking is not simply a mode of travelling, but of being. This reflection immediately made me think of the piece from Lyrical Ballads 1798, ‘Old Man Travelling, Animal Tranquillity and Decay, a Sketch’ which concludes with the lines

‘—I asked him whither he was bound, and what
The object of his journey; he replied
“Sir! I am going many miles to take
“A last leave of my son, a mariner,
“Who from a sea-fight has been brought to Falmouth,
“And there is dying in an hospital.”’

From Isabella Fenwick’s note, dictated to her by the poet in 1843, there is a suggestion that this poem was ‘an overflowing from the old Cumberland Beggar’ and that phrase ‘overflowing’ seems particularly pertinent to this beautifully produced volume from Longbarrow Press in which ‘Familiar ways are made unfamiliar by acts of attention to hitherto unseen details.’

In James Caruth’s poem ‘Procession’ there is a Wordsworthian moment in which the current scene is juxtaposed with the more distant world in which ‘Somewhere, important events are taking place’. Running throughout these poems there is a thread which links a sharply perceived moment with the world of distant wars. ‘Close of Play’ has a newspaper front page which lies on a pub table:

‘The front page of a discarded newspaper
flaps open on a picture of young faces
in desert fatigues, blank eyes staring
below headlines of zones, and new offensives.’

In ‘Memorial’ ‘another day ends in Helmand / as two young men kick the desert / from their boots, stare at a camera lens / and think of home as a village like this.’ There are echoes here of course of poems written during the 1914-18 War and both Edward Thomas and Ivor Gurney spring to mind. Gurney’s ‘Crickley Hill’ concludes

‘You hills of home, woodlands, white roads and inns
That star and line our darling land, still keep
Memory of us; for when first day begins
We think of you and dream in the first sleep
Of you and yours—
Trees, bare rocks, flowers
Daring the blast on Crickley’s distant steep.’

Close to the end of this collection there is Rob Hindle’s ‘Nether Edge’ with its echoes of another great walker, Thomas Hardy:

‘Allotments terrace the edge,
the climb fenced with privet and old doors.
Light clings here, setting fires in the glass.
The soil beds are mounded with carpets
or left bare for frosts to crack them.

There is nothing here that bombs
would make a difference. All those houses
wrecked, lives spilled into the street
like seeds; but this low-rent fallowland
persists, all ruin and renewal.’

This is a wonderfully uplifting anthology of poems; there is a sense of continuity which reaches back into history and landscape. Fay Musselwhite’s ‘Path Kill’ focuses on returns as ‘Woodlouse and fly families later, / flat stacked in fraying layers / dog-eared rug-matted black / leaf-like in leaves, secret / in bramble and buttercup, ransacked, leaching back.’ The purposeful human connotation in ‘flat stacked’ is poised above a word of parting and growth (‘leaves’) before concluding with the present participle, ‘leaching’, in which the dissolution involved in an agricultural process is juxtaposed against the image of ‘Woodlouse’, ‘secret’ and ‘back’. It is as if we are being presented with a vulnerability overcome by a tenacity.

This is a poetry of inscription and record and a frost ‘will crust this nave / for stone years, bone years, well-deep years’ (Chris Jones, ‘The Doom or Last Judgement’)

Reading through this anthology prompted me to turn back to that 1973 book by Donald Davie, Thomas Hardy and British Poetry:

‘Hardy’s feeling for topography and locality, as somehow conditioning the human lives lived under their influence more powerfully than any theory available to him or to us can allow for, is something that can and does persist, as a tradition, quite athwart the evident discontinuities, between him and us, in the way that artistic form, and specifically poetic form, is conceived.’

These lines immediately precede Davie’s focus on some of the early poems of J.H. Prynne and glancing at these comments I rooted out that early piece of criticism by Prynne, a review of Samuel Hynes’s book The Pattern of Hardy’s Poetry, which appeared in Victorian Studies 5, 1961-2:

‘…the deliberate identification of “style” with “tone”, as a means of substantiating the poet’s self-effacement in favour of the real particular world, is well pointed up.’

Ian Brinton 25th September 2014

Picture This: Tears in the Fence at 60

Picture This: Tears in the Fence at 60

60 editions of Tears in the Fence, plus the Larmer Tree special issue – and if you have any copies, we’d love to see them.

We want to gather as many photos of copies/collections of TITF as possible for display at the Festival (October 24-26th in Dorset UK. See tearsinthefence.com/festival).

Whether you have one copy, 20 copies or even the whole lot (!!), please take a photo and send it to us:

A. Picture them any way you want – snap them where they stand on your bookshelves; pile ‘em high on your desk; or make any arrangement you like – even put yourself in the photo (a TITF selfie!)

B. Send the photo to tearsinthefence@gmail.com, or post it on the TITF Facebook group page; or tweet it using the hashtag #titf60

Any information about yourself, e.g. the country you live in, thoughts on the magazine etc. will be entirely a bonus.

Now: get your phone and… SNAP!

Your participation really matters.

Privacy and permissions
The purpose of the ‘Picture This’ project is to create a display board full of photos at the Festival (as part, by the by, of demonstrating the reach of the magazine).

We would also like to use some in posts on Facebook and twitter, and some or all on the website, as part of the publicity drive for the Festival. If you would prefer that we do NOT use your photo and/or your name online, please let us know when you submit your photo.

Many thanks again for your participation

The TITF team

John Freeman at the Tears In the Fence Festival

John Freeman at the Tears In the Fence Festival

We are excited that John Freeman, a long time and regular contributor to the magazine will be reading at the Tears in the Fence Festival, on Saturday, 25th October. Our Festival will be held in a large marquee by the White Horse, Stourpaine, Dorset, on 24th -26th October, in the heart of beautiful countryside. The venue nestles beneath Hod Hill and is close to the north Dorset Trailway.

John Freeman is a leading exponent of the prose poem and an authority on the British Poetry Renaissance. A Lecturer in English at University College, Cardiff since 1972, John specialises in modern poetry, the Romantics, and Creative Writing. His most recent books include White Wings: New and Selected Prose Poems (Contraband, 2013), A Suite for Summer (Worple Press, 2007) and a critical work The Less Received: Neglected Modern Poets (Stride Publication, 2000).

In Tears in the Fence 59, Ian Brinton described White Wings as a book that ‘when you have read it you will want to keep turning back to it time and again.’ He notes that ‘these pieces by Freeman give us pictures caught in the act of movement’ and that they ‘possess
a palpability’ of the precise unfurling of the moment. Freeman continues to probe the present moment in this poem in Tears in the Fence 60.

The Exchange By The Stile

Let it be creation, let it be even
illusion, the sense of a coherence
in the story we tell ourselves of ourselves,
isn’t it a story worth telling? We have
only the present moment, they say, breathing
in, breathing out, but what of how, driving
along the humming dual carriageway
in early May, I notice the beginnings
of small new leaves on trees where a stile guards
the path I used to walk along the river,
often alone, but one time with my father,
and feel a presence here as delicate
as the tender shoots not fully open.
Because I forget what either of us said
at this spot, I remember, driving on,
what he said later after we had skirted
the playing fields under the trees beside
this same river, the other side of it –
we’d have crossed it on the springy footbridge.
We were deep in placid communion,
about to leave the green part of the walk
to cross a busy road and head for home.
I touched his arm and we turned and stood still,
seeing the grass and the tall woods behind us,
and he said that looking back was something
he wished he’d thought to do and done more often.
He meant it literally about his years
of walking, cycling, and exploring, but then
the hidden meaning in it overtook him,
and we both heard it in the same instant,
ambushed, together, by unspoken feeling.
Whatever it was that happened and was said
at that stile I flash past on my journey,
or merely passed unsaid but felt between us,
it was present in that later retrospect,
the two moments fused into one moment,
infusing this one, not by an act of will,
but as fragrance taking me unawares,
like the penetrating scent of lilac
that caught me yesterday by the front gate
taking me back to mornings in my childhood.
We live in so much more than just the present.

In an interview with Gavin Goodwin in Tears in the Fence 59, Freeman said that his most consistent drive in writing White Wings was the ‘raising of consciousness’ to avoid sleep-walking through life.

Freeman is a measured reader of poetry and we have a treat in store.
We can’t wait!

David Caddy 19th September 2014

Moving Words, Forms of English Poetry by Derek Attridge (OUP)

Moving Words, Forms of English Poetry by Derek Attridge (OUP)

‘What we mean by the power of poetry is itself far from clear. For a particular reader, caught in the contingencies of space and time, and guided by expectation, training, and ideology, only a few poems, perhaps, will seduce or explode with that full force of which poetry is capable; but those that do so pose a challenge to our accounts of language, of meaning, and of action that we are a long way from meeting.’

These words from the introduction to this highly readable account of how poems are capable of conveying powerful emotions through the exploitation of the resources of language set the scene. This book is about prosody and it is never dry; that is because Professor Attridge is concerned with sharing with us his fascination with the way in which we can be moved by what poetry we read. He starts with the anecdotal, a reminiscence from his own school days when he first came across the principles of Latin scansion and discovered that ‘what looked and sounded like a random arrangement of words into lines could, after mastering a few rules, be shown to be anything but random.’

When giving an account of how he came to choose the topic for his Ph.D thesis Professor Attridge points to his enjoyment of the short lyric in English, and his fascination with its flowering in the Elizabethan period. He also points us to an acknowledgement of the ‘remarkable Cambridge lectures of Jeremy Prynne’ before telling us that his proposal involved a comparison of Renaissance poetic theory with poetic practice, ‘starting with a detailed discussion of late sixteenth-century poetic treatises.’

Prynne reappears in this book and there is a fascinating account given of the poem, ‘Their catch-up is slow and careful’, from the 1993 collection Not-You. The author has chosen this short piece, composed of two four-line stanzas with rhyme, as a comparison with Don Paterson’s ‘Correctives’, from his collection Rain, another eight-line lyrical piece. The detailed comparison is fascinating and if I were still in the classroom I would present my sixth-formers with this juxtaposition of two such different poets. The comparison is bold and successful; it also presents to us that close examination of language which is a central aspect to the world of Practical Criticism. A useful comparison here might also be the notes Prynne made to his eight-line poem, ‘Listening To All’, in preparation for a seminar down at the University of Sussex early on this year.

Derek Attridge’s Moving Words is an important book and it should be read by all aspiring poets! Within the next few months Shearsman will be publishing Andrew Crozier’s PhD thesis, ‘Free Verse as Formal Restraint: an alternative to metrical conventions in twentieth century poetic structure’ and this will make an interesting companion piece to Moving Words. Crozier’s opening sentence in the introduction also sets a scene:

‘My intention in writing this thesis has been to cast some light on the prima facie case that free verse, in abandoning the exercise of metre, has abandoned that principle of restraint upon which the creation of artistic form depends.’

Ian Brinton 17th September 2014

Tears in the Fence 60

Tears in the Fence 60

Tears in the Fence marks its Thirtieth Anniversary with a poetry Festival 24-26th October, and the publication of issue 60.

Tears in the Fence 60 is now available from https://tearsinthefence.com/pay-it-forward and features poetry and fiction from Lucy Hamilton, John Freeman, Ric Hool, Francis Ponge translated by Ian Brinton, Lynne Wycherley, James Midgley, George Ttoouli, Melinda Lovell, Michael Farrell, Paul A. Green, Norman Jope, Rethabile Masilo, Jo Mazelis, Helen Copley. Saint James Harris Wood, Paul Kareem Tayyar, Linda Black, Jeremy Reed, Peter King, David Ball, John Torrance, Jay Ramsay, Dorothy Lehane, Caroline Maldonado, Mark Dickinson, Michael Henry, Amy McCauley, Lesley Burt, Deya Mukherjee, Colin Sutherill, L. Kiew, Adam Fieled, Rob Stanton, Steve Spence, Colin McCabe, Elaine Randell, Mandy Pannett and Mark Russell. There is also a Conversation Piece between Fiona Owen and Ric Hool.

The critical section includes Hannah Silva’s Make It Strange, Jennifer K. Dick’s Of Tradition & Experiment, Anthony Barnett’s Antonyms, Belinda Cooke on recent translations, Basil King’s Learning to Draw / A History, Ben Hickman on Tony Lopez, Jeremy Hilton on Andrew Taylor, sean burn, Ric Hool, Peter Hughes on Women’s Experimental Poetry in Britain, Philip Crozier on Andrew Crozier in Hastings, Gavin Goodwin on Thomas A. Clark, Mandy Pannett on Simon Jarvis, David Caddy on John Goodby’s The Poetry of Dylan Thomas, Rosie Jackson’s Between The Lines, Notes on Contributors and Ian Brinton’s Afterword.

Three books from Paul Rossiter’s Isobar Press

Three books from Paul Rossiter’s Isobar Press

From the Japanese by Paul Rossiter

What the Sky Arranges by Andrew Fitzsimons

Arc Tangent by Eric Selland

These three books from Paul Rossiter’s recently founded ISOBAR Press are a delight to see, hold, read, re-read. These are publications of a very high quality indeed and they sit in the hand likes works of art. I am struck by a sense of cool distance, things seen from afar and I read Eric Selland

‘Everyone carries a room inside him. Yesterday I ran into C for the first time in many months. He had returned in September from a research trip overseas but was now despondent, insisting to me that he should have stayed. It was at this moment that I realized my experience of returning to this country after years living abroad had been much the same. And now I see that a part of me never truly returned. In effect, I have lived out much of my life as if I were not actually here. In a way, I was never wholly present. But on the other hand, perhaps one is never wholly present in the world. The very notion of turning back.’

When I read this I was immediately put in mind of an eerie Henry James tale from 1892, ‘The Private Life’, in which Lord Mellifont only seems to exist when someone places him as the centre of social conversation, a place he would expect to be. If you were looking for him (unknown to him) you would discover that ‘He was too absent, too utterly gone, as gone as a candle blown out…’. As the narrator suggests, there was a peculiarity about Mellifont ‘that there could be no conversation about him that didn’t instantly take the form of anecdote’. It is as if we are made up of the stories people tell about us; as if we are a gilded obelisk, the external and crystallised surface of a buried life!

Or, as Selland puts it elsewhere in this fascinating pair of prose-poem sequences ‘Like an object abides in the plasticity of an aspect. A setting that determines coordinates’.

What the Sky Arranges is a collection of wise, witty, compassionate and, occasionally, cranky ruminations on the business of living by the monk, Kenkō (c. 1283-c. 1350). It is wonderfully illustrated by the photographs of Sergio Maria Calatroni. There is a clear simplicity to these poems such as the carpe diem of ‘DATES’:

‘Don’t wait till dotage for your goodness to begin.
Look at the dates on those gravestones’

And, as if in response to Pascal, there is ‘WORLDS’:

‘Travel. Wherever you go
the world you bring with you
is washed by the world you see.’

In From the Japanese Paul Rossiter’s own poems range from a version of a prose poem by Basho (completed in 1969 before he went to Japan) to a letter from the city of Ishinomaki, severely damaged in the tsunami of 2011. There is an echo of Gary Snyder, whose poetry I rate very highly, in the merging of precision and spiritual possibility:

‘wave pattern in raked sand
very particular pine trees
we climb stone steps to the hall’

There is a quiet grace in these poems, a measured tracing of pictures in words which I know I shall return to time and again:

‘eyes down to search for tokens
loving this shell and this one and this one

the grace of these anonymous sarcophagi
each an emblem
of a life’s urgent spiralling to order
licked clean by the sea’s salt tongue
haunted by echoes, empty as light’

ISOBAR PRESS

14 Isokon Flats, Lawn Road, London NW3 2XD http://isobarpress.com

Ian Brinton 10th September 2014

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