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Monthly Archives: October 2015

The ‘EUOIA’ collaboration

The ‘EUOIA’ collaboration

The ‘EUOIA’ is a collaborative venture that extends the premise of the fictional poetry of my volume, A Translated Man, published by Shearsman in 2013, which is given over to my own invention, the fictional Belgian poet René Van Valckenborch. (He has a whole page on my website: http://robertsheppard.weebly.com/rene-van-valckenborch.html.) Apparently writing in both Flemish and Walloon, and translated and edited by entities as shadowy (and dodgy) as himself, Van Valckenborch’s split oeuvre derives from the linguistic and cultural divide within contemporary Belgium. They are ‘fictional poems’, not hoaxes, and that distinction is important for me.

The last project of his Flemish writings was to invent the ‘EUOIA: The European Union Of Imaginary Authors’. Van Valckenborch invents his own fictional authors and, being in Brussels (capital of the EU), hits upon the idea of one for each member country. In the book we read a sample of five women writers, one poem each. I’ve put together a website for it (www.euoia.weebly.com), which now describes the latest project with regular updates (as does my blog http://www.robertsheppard.blogspot.com).

You can also watch the Liverpool Camarade (February 2015) showing me reading with several collaborators here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSLlfz5mfOY, though it’s also added to the website now, as is the video of Zoe Skoulding reading our Cypriot poet Gurkan Arnavut. (It’s also here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-UHv9lFaxU). So far, the collaborations, either finished or currently underway, have been with colleagues, old friends, new friends, young poets, and (a deliberate decision) female poets. The methods of collaboration range from one word at a time (with Philip Terry) to whole poems (Kelvin Corcoran). Some (with Jèssica Pujol i Duran and Alys Conran) leave me not quite sure who wrote what. The result is a developing anthology, which I hope will be published (before the EU referendum: Van Valckenborch had NO idea how timely his project would be).

Croatia Martina Marković (1982-) with James Byrne (and Damir Šodan).
Austria Sophie Poppmeier (1981-) with Jason Argleton (See more on Sophie Poppmeier on Pages at: http://www.robertsheppard.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/robert-sheppard-euoia-sophie-poppmeier.html)
Belgium Paul Coppens (1980-) with Philip Terry
Bulgaria Ivaylo Dimitrov (1979-) with Patricia Farrell
Cyprus Gurkan Arnavut (1978-) with Zoë Skoulding
Finland Minna Kärkkäinen (1974-) with Allen Fisher
Greece Eua Ionnou (1971-) with Kelvin Corcoran
Ireland Sean Eogan (1969-) with Steve MacCaffery
Luxembourg Georg Bleinstein (1965-2046) with Tom Jenks
Malta Hubert Zuba (1964-) with Scott Thurston
Netherlands Maarten De Zoete (1963-) with God’s Rude Wireless (a cut up machine)
Portugal Ana Cristina Pessao (1961-) with Jèssica Pujol i Duran
Spain Cristòfol Subira (1957-) with Alys Conran (Our reading as part of Gelynion Poetry (Bangor), on May 26th 2015, may be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVOfQEMoss4.)
Sweden Kajsa Bergström (1956-) with Steven Fowler
United Kingdom Robert Sheppard (1955-)

There is a bonus track (outside the EU and beyond reality): Frisland: Hróbjartur Ríkeyjarson af Dvala (1948- ), written with Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl, and, of course: Poland: Jaroslav Biały (1962-) with Anamaría Crowe Serrano, which is featured in the current issue of Tears in the Fence.

In some ways this has been the most extraordinary collaboration, and partly because, unlike most of the other collaborators (except Jason Argleton, who is a fiction, and God’s Rude Wireless, ‘who’ is a machine) I have never met Anamaría. But Jaroslav Biały has a special place in the sequence because I felt so completely taken out of myself and made into (half) of someone else. It’s a difficult thing to describe, the process of being othered and familiarised at the same time. When it’s over, there is a period of mourning because you realise you’ll never re-create him, as it were. There’s nothing else to come. (This is a common feeling of reading foreign poetry; at the moment I’m reading a Hugo Claus selection, and I’m reading incomplete sequences and extracts that leave me dissatisfied, among the other causes of intense satisfaction: that I’d managed to get the particularly rural gloom of Belgium right, in some early Van Valckenborch poems, for example! They are just great poems anyway.)

Nevertheless, there is more of Jaroslav at The Bogman’s Cannon: http://bogmanscannon.com/2015/05/06/poetic-fictions/. But no more. Thank you Anamaría; thank you Jaroslav.

Robert Sheppard 30th October 2015

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Steps by Mark Goodwin (Longbarrow Press)

Steps by Mark Goodwin (Longbarrow Press)

In his introduction to The Footing (Longbarrow Press 2013) Brian Lewis referred to Mark Goodwin’s ‘coastal epic’ From a St Juliot to Beyond a Beeny as being ‘shortened and reshaped for this collection’. In late September last year I put a blog review of that remarkable anthology of poems on the Tears website and it gives me considerable pleasure now to follow it up with a few reflections on Mark Goodwin’s 2014 volume, Steps. This beautifully produced volume includes the full version of that ‘coastal epic’, running to some seventy pages, as well as some fine meditative verse that owes a considerable debt to the poet’s reading of the American Gary Snyder. Indeed it is no surprise that the collection should open with an epigraph from Snyder’s essay ‘Blue Mountains Constantly Walking’: ‘If you doubt mountains walking you do not know your own walking’. And the major presence of the American poet took me back to an interview he had given for the small magazine, Road Apple, in 1969 in which he asserted that

‘teaching should begin with what the local forces are…You should really know what the complete natural world of your region is and know what all its interactions are and how you are interacting with it yourself. This is just part of the work of becoming who you are, where you are.’

Some of Snyder’s cleanest and sharpest ‘digging’ appeared in his early volume, Riprap (Origin Press 1959) where the title (defined as ‘a cobble of stone laid on steep slick rock/to make a trail for horses in the mountains’) becomes itself a definition of poetry. The clear edges of the cobbles take one, line by line, into a world of extraordinary clarity where a sense of ‘then’ and ‘now’ is interwoven. Mark Goodwin’s opening poem in Steps is titled ‘Walk’ and it opens with an imperative
‘Put
a foot on a rock. Choose

one route through millions of pebbles. Follow
clearly seen, sometimes pain-filled paths, or abandon
people’s spoor & artefact. Wander.’

The coastal epic concerning a ‘Walk in a North Cornwall’ begins with a clear association between the act of walking and that of writing a poem:

‘if you are reading
this walk imaginatively
rather than actually
walking it then there is
only one certainty

this is a poem’

Step by step, pebble by pebble, the words are placed on the page and the reader moves along this path of personal self-awareness, this trail of individual response to a landscape. As with Snyder’s ‘Riprap’ (‘Lay down these words / Before your mind like rocks.’) the imperative acts as a guide and Goodwin is the map-reader:

‘a map
and you’re reading
a me reading that and

that’s a perhaps

under our feet now
are path-pebbles’

The indefinite article registers the poet’s concern for making clear that this journey is an individual one; it is not to be confused with the guide-book mentality of making assumptions about priorities. In a landscape very different from the North Devon coast of England Snyder’s sense of place had been defined early for him whilst working for a trail crew high up in the West Coast’s Yosemite Park:

‘I found myself doing three months of long, hard physical labour, out on the trails every day, living more or less in isolation, twenty-five miles from the nearest road. We never went out. We just stayed in there working on those trails week after week. At the beginning, I found myself straining against it, trying to exercise my mind as I usually exercise it. I was reading Milton and I had some other reading, and I was trying to go out on the trails during the day and think about things in a serious, intellectual way, while doing my work. And it was frustrating, although I had done the same thing before, on many jobs. Finally, I gave up trying to carry on an intellectual interior life separate from the work, and I said the hell with it, I’ll just work. And instead of losing something, I got something much greater. By just working, I found myself being completely there, having the whole mountain inside of me, and finally having a whole language inside of me that became one with the rocks and with the trees. And that was where I first learned the possibility of being one with what you were doing…’.

Mark Goodwin’s journey is one of personal discovery. It contains a sense of objectivity with references to places and maps (‘OS Explorer Map 111 / Bude, Boscastle & Tintagel / 1:25 000 scale / Edition—B1 / Revised for significant change 2003 / Revised for selected change 2005 / pertinent six-figure & eight-figure grid-references / & cardinal headings are given throughout’) but the poem is one of an individual response to landscape and it charts a healing process as individuals are met and ‘my soul’s body’ is given ‘back to me’. In keeping with this care of approach Steps concludes with a section ‘A bout A’:

‘Dear Ear,

Often my poetry about lANDscAPE re()(f)uses the (or even a) definite article—a/the use of either ‘A’ or ‘a’ re(veals)inforces how land’s cape is cons tructed, is multiple & layered, and is only dist(rict)inct to ‘a’ person in ‘a’ moment…’

Ian Brinton 29th October 2015

Stanze by Simon Marsh STILL LIFE by Ian Patterson (Oystercatcher Press)

Stanze by Simon Marsh  STILL LIFE by Ian Patterson (Oystercatcher Press)

Elegies have various narratives buried within them. Some, like Thomas Gray’s famous reflections in an eighteenth-century country churchyard, have incomplete ones: what might have been rather than what was. There are ironies underlying Gray’s use of the word ‘waste’ in the couplet

‘Full many a flower is born to blush unseen
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.’

Blushing suggests a social awareness, a young girl perhaps entertaining her earliest encounters with the opposite sex, and ‘waste’ records with a touch of wistful sorrow how those imagined ambitions of youth are lost to the inexorable marches of Time.
Simon Marsh’s sixteen short elegiac poems present the reader with narratives which accrue to become a ‘life’. The opening poem, ‘Notte’, registers the continuance of one narrative (‘nature’s circuitry’) acting its part as background to another narrative which has now reached conclusion. The inevitable new growth of seed ‘is soldered to / a board of silence’. The grief of personal loss cannot be contained within a narrative framework of magic and belief. When Leontes lost his wife in A Winter’s Tale he became the man who dwelt by a churchyard until the new statue of Hermione stirred from its pedestal and stepped down to greet him sixteen years after her death. Marsh’s sequence closes with another poem titled ‘Notte’ and here the ‘masonry bit / lodged in / our hearts’ causes memories to crumble as day breaks up night:

‘if you’re looking
for rubble
you’ve come
to the right place
night crumples
& is gone’

These sonnets are filled with moments of narrative: ‘caffeine stunned we breakfasted on cakes the size of runes’; ‘there was something wayward / in the way you searched / for last night’s embers / in the hearth’; ‘you kept me waiting often enough / but never quite like this’; scooping ‘vacant autumn oysters / from low tide silt’ near Margate.
When I edited a collection of essays about the work of Peter Hughes for Shearsman two years ago (An intuition of the particular), Simon Marsh opened his piece with such clarity of narrative that it comes as no surprise now to read his recollections ‘for Manuela Selvatico 1960-2010’ and have a past become a present:

‘In the middle of the night, after dinner in a trattoria on the Tuscolana outskirts of Rome, Hughes suggested we drive to Gran Sasso to watch the sunrise. We took a sizeable piece of pecorino cheese, a bottle of Jameson’s, the dog Peg, and set off.’

These stanzas, little rooms, that make up this fine Oystercatcher publication are reconstructed journeys that give a nod of recognition perhaps to Thomas Hardy’s ‘Poems of 1912-13’. Where Hardy opened ‘After a Journey’ with the assertive comment ‘Hereto I come to interview a ghost’ Simon Marsh opens ‘Ritorno’ with a sense of the risk involved in all Orphic ventures:

‘I return to the sea at my risk & in the end
decide to leave the beach alone
after all you filled the house with stones
I’ve numbered them for smoothness & taped
small flecks of rock wave here and thither
perhaps for later use…’

The risk involved in all backward glances is there immediately in the second of the two volumes dropped from the oystercatcher’s beak yesterday, STILL LIFE. Dedicated ‘to whom it may concern’, with an increasing feeling as we leaf through these carefully inscribed pages that it in fact concerns us all since absence and presence dominate our lives, the collection of poems opens with thorny difficulty: ‘NO WAY’:

‘No way to compare the very place
this sense felt before with pure breast
or self by adhesion among cranesbills

but at risk to restate or stage the world
of difference between the most difficult thing
and a life to imagine taking place between

one black bird and an other whole way’

Of course all life is individual and all sense of loss is personal. The limitation of language is that it cannot be the very thing it evokes and there is ‘no way to compare’ the particularity of ‘very place’. Every venture at contemplation of absence is a risk because nothing can be restated or staged again; language, symbolic gestures that arrive after the event, is imagination and the poet juxtaposes this limitation with the separated division of singularity in ‘one black bird’ (not even blackbird) and ‘an other’ (not even another).
When I wrote earlier this month about Peter Makin’s profoundly moving collection of poems from Isobar Press, Neck of the Woods, I referred to Fulke Greville’s poem ‘Absence and Presence’. Having spent some time weighing up the advantages of absence the Elizabethan poet concludes

‘But thoughts be not so brave,
With absent joy;
For you with that you have
Yourself destroy:
The absence which you glory,
Is that which makes you sorry,
And burn in vain:
For thought is not the weapon,
Wherewith thought’s ease men cheapen,
Absence is pain.’

This sequence of poems by Ian Patterson has a tone of quiet solemnity. There is a contemplative awareness of the fragility of humanity as ‘Unconnected with each other we meet / quiet and thoughtful and rock a little // regretfully round a building’. The titles of the poems offer us warnings: ‘NO WAY’; ‘WARNING IGNORED’; ‘THE MODE THAT WILL NOT BE WRITTEN’; ‘A SEEDY BOX’; ‘NIGHT VIEW’; ‘ONE’; ‘IMAGE DAMAGE’; ‘BROWN PAPER’; ‘FOOTSTEPS’; ‘EMPTY SPACE’; ‘COLD AGAIN’; ‘REBUKE’. They also offer us a serious reflective stance as the poet concludes his ‘REBUKE’ with the assertion that ‘It can be uncertain as whatever it was / received by the eye to disturb a power in my brain events / will be voyaging to trap the work of words shaped as if it still remains.’ Language may have its limitations but gaze carefully on what is after all STILL LIFE.
Tomorrow I shall be sending off my cheque for £25 to Oystercatcher Press renewing my subscription to a powerful and distinctive voice in contemporary British poetry. (www.oystercatcherpress.com)

Ian Brinton 25th October 2015.

Virgil, Aeneid Books I-VI Translated by David Hadbawnik Illustrations by Carrie Kaser Shearsman Books

Virgil, Aeneid Books I-VI Translated by David Hadbawnik Illustrations by Carrie Kaser Shearsman Books

When Christopher Logue published his 20 Poems based on Pablo Neruda’s Los Cantos d’Amores in 1958 he added a note at the end to say ‘these are not translations strictly speaking, but adaptations, and several of the poems are entirely new, although taking their theme from the original Neruda poem’. One year later Donald Carne-Ross suggested that Logue might contribute to a new version of Homer’s Iliad which he was about to commission for the B.B.C. When Jonathan Cape issued an edition of Logue’s Homeric work in 1981, titled War Music, the poet wrote an introduction which gave some background to the whole enterprise:

‘As the work progressed beyond its original limitation I paid less attention to my guides. Carne-Ross would provide me with a literal translation that retained the Greek word order; I would concoct a storyline based on its main incident; and then, knowing the gist of what this or that character said, would try to make their voices come alive and to keep the action on the move.’

Nine years before Logue’s work on Homer got going the magazine Poetry New York, A Magazine of Verse and Criticism, published a piece of prose, now become very famous indeed, which included the statement:

‘…get on with it, keep moving, keep in, speed, the nerves, their speed, the perceptions, theirs, the acts, the split second acts, the whole business, keep it moving as fast as you can, citizen.’

It is surely no mere coincidence that the blurb on the back of this vibrant and page-turning Virgil should say ‘These translations are not only full of light, but also speed…’ (Joe Milutis, Jacket 2)

This book is terrific! Once start the adventure as ‘Clouds snatch sun from the sky’ and you will be hooked.

Example

As the serpents from Tenedos rear up to destroy Laocoön and his sons:

‘New horrors awaited us—Laocoön,
priest of Apollo, happened
to be leading a bull to the altar
when two snakes shot
from the sea (awful to think about)
half-in
half-out of the water, blood-red scales
rising ghastly above the waves
tails thrashing around in the foam.
There was a crash as they made land
eyes burning with blood and fire
hissing tongues hanging from open mouths—
we lit out at the sight of them.’

The dramatic juxtaposition of the leisurely manner in which the priest is preparing a bull for slaughter and the explosive ‘shot’; the past tense that becomes present participle, ‘rising’, ‘thrashing’, ‘hissing’; the merging of past and present in the panic to escape as ‘we lit out…’. This version of the well-known narrative comes rearing off the page.

The violence of the destruction of Troy is shocking in a visceral manner as the Trojans drag the wooden horse within the walls:

‘So we split the walls
and opened the city up wide….
Meanwhile the world turned and night
rushed in—covering with darkness
the tricks of the Greeks—and all through Troy
sleep took tired souls.’

Carrie Kaser’s illustration to this moment combines a haunting quality of movement with an eerie sense of farewell. It is quite typical of the 23 illustrations which appear at regular intervals throughout the text.
The Cantos of Ezra Pound provide a lurking presence behind Hadbawnik’s translation: ‘Canto IV’s ‘Palace in smoky light’ becomes ‘left Troy smoking in ruins’ and ‘Canto I’ is referred to more directly in the second section of Book III, ‘Wandering’, gives us ‘set keel to breakers / once more’.

This is the most lively piece of translation from Latin that I have come across in a long while and it certainly stands up well by comparison with Logue’s Greek epic.

Ian Brinton, 15th October 2015

Crisis and the US Avant-Garde: Poetry and Real Politics by Ben Hickman (Edinburgh University Press)

Crisis and the US Avant-Garde: Poetry and Real Politics by Ben Hickman (Edinburgh University Press)

It was apparently in The Christian Recorder of March 1862, a publication of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, that the little jingle first appeared:

‘Sticks and stones will break my bones
But words will never harm me’

It was reissued in London some ten years later in Mrs Cupples’s Tappy’s Chicks: and Other Links Between Nature and Human Nature. And from there, of course, it soon became part and parcel of every child’s taunt of derision aimed at another child who was throwing verbal stones in the playground!

Ben Hickman’s timely and important reminder of verbal limits opens up with a refreshing quotation from the American poet Joshua Clover:

“I think that for a while now, many of us poets have been telling ourselves lies about the political force of poetry”.

Clover goes on to voice some of those well-known and well-worn lies (“Speaking truth to power. Giving voice to the voiceless. Laying bare the truth of the ineluctably immiserating mechanism in which we live.”) before grouping them together as “ideas which allow activities at the level of language to claim the same material force as a thrown brick.” It was Anthony Barnett who used a reference to a brick thrown through the windows of reviewers when he wrote in 1989 about the Allardyce, Barnett publications of authors including Prynne, Crozier, Oliver and himself. The handsomely produced volumes were indeed brick-like and presented a clear assertion of the contents’ importance: ignore these authors at your peril! When Prynne later became published by Bloodaxe the production again had the weight and appearance of an oeuvre that would not simply be ignored.

In PN Review 192 Geoffrey Ward published an article ‘Poetry and the Rift’ in which he looked at some limitations of language. He opened his piece by declaring “In the beginning was the word. Trouble being, the word was always late for the event.” After all words are NOT things like bricks or stones:

“Words can describe, evoke, suggest, delineate, propose, haunt—do all manner of things—except be the thing or feeling or concept to which they refer.”

The article is partly a re-writing of a piece which Ward had included in the ephemeral little magazine, Archeus, in 1989:

“Language is doomed to unpunctuality, words chasing, describing, shadowing a reality they can do anything but actually be. But if words miss their goal they pursue in the meantime their own life in the mouth or on the page, powerful figures of speech that predate our individual use of them constraining or permitting meanings always aslant or surplus to requirements.”

In memorable lines Auden announced the limitations of poetry when he declared in his poem written in memory of Yeats that “poetry makes nothing happen”

“…..it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper…”

Taking up the theme again in Partisan Review, Spring 1939, Auden presented a piece of prose ‘The Public v. the Late Mr. William Butler Yeats’ which concluded that “The case for the prosecution rests on the fallacious belief that art ever makes anything happen, whereas the honest truth, gentlemen, is that, if not a poem had been written, not a picture painted, not a bar of music composed, the history of man would be materially unchanged.”

Ben Hickman’s highly readable account of some aspects of contemporary American poetry includes a close survey of work by Zukofsky and Olson, Rukeyser, Baraka and Ron Silliman. Quoting Olson’s The Special View of History Hickman gives us the richly ambiguous statement “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please”. What surrounds this statement is a very fine account of the poem ‘As the Dead Prey Upon Us’, a more extended account of which can be found in Hickman’s contribution to the Manchester University Press collection of essays edited by David Herd, Contemporary Olson. Ben Hickman goes on to write about the vivid nature of Black Mountain College in which the polis was constantly self-constituting, self-employed and self-inventing:

“It is this characteristic of quick fluidity, of a perpetually open process of social constitution in which coups d’état were a constant possibility, that made Black Mountain “a live society, not something proposed—something that was done and was there.” (Olson on Black Mountain)”.

Hickman’s clear, precise and lucid account of the avant-garde in American poetry takes a close look at the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E world of Bernstein and Silliman and quotes the latter’s comment “Important as books are, it is being that determines consciousness”. Which takes me back to Geoff Ward:

“We certainly handle words better than we handle each other or the non-human world. But living in particular spaces, whereby the hieroglyphs that spell ‘save the planet’ are not the same thing as a saved planet, the injunction ‘pass the salt’ no guarantee of approaching salinity, there is built into writing, a certain lateness. There is something of death in all its usages.”

As Ben Hickman’s concluding chapter on ‘The End of the Avant-Garde’ suggests, almost mischievously, “an avant-garde in a university is a contradiction in terms”.

Ian Brinton 12th October 2015

Neck of the Woods by Peter Makin (Isobar Press)

Neck of the Woods by Peter Makin (Isobar Press)

Grief resides in the particular and few poets know that better than Peter Makin. Perhaps this understanding of how emotions are located within a sense of ‘thereness’ is part of what makes his critical writing about Pound so clear: ‘Allied with subtlety were solitude, and that old Platonic doctrine of an immaterial soul caught in the net of an “accidental” body.’
Pound’s Cantos (John Hopkins, 1985) is the best introduction to the poems’ enormous voyaging forth that I know. The lucid quality of Peter Makin’s writing is only rivalled by his own book on Basil Bunting published in 1992 by Clarendon Press, Oxford: The Shaping of his Verse:

Statements by Bunting:
1. It is “worth dwelling on things”;

2. “Suckling poets should be fed on Darwin till they are filled with the elegance of things seen or heard or touched.”

The particular. And LIGHT.

“Pound deeply believed that dead ends, sorrow, darkness could not be other than accidental in the significant scheme of things. The primal sin was to shut out the light; it followed that the light was essentially there.”
(Pound’s Cantos, ch. 1)

Neck of the Woods gathers all the poems from the period 2000-2015 that Peter Makin wishes to preserve. On the reverse side of this beautifully produced book from Paul Rossiter’s Isobar Press there is a note from August Kleinzahler:

“The singular force behind this collection of poems, with its six sections, is loss and grief, the expressions of which drift in and out of the poems, as if emerging then receding behind the clouds, usually in the form of glimpsed memory.”

Pound’s Cantos was dedicated ‘to Corrêa’ as was Bunting: The Shaping of his Verse. Makin’s edition of Bunting’s lectures, Basil Bunting on Poetry (John Hopkins, 1999) was dedicated ‘to or for, /by, with, or from / Correa’. This recent publication of Peter Makin’s poems concludes with a section titled ‘Ato’ and is headed ‘Stella Irene Correa obit 15.12.97. The mark, print, trace or track leads the reader to light:

“O so sweet, o so gentle
light,

and these banks;

suddenly adown the angle
a crow’s shadow, and more slowly
across the path;

and I look again, and see the stump
way up on the scoop of hill
from which I looked down on this path
where she walked, then in snow,

now in this light,
with the crow’s shadow.”

Loss and the remains of loss is to be “surrounded by clutter”:

“ ‘From Correa’s Room
To Be Sorted’
suitcases
clothes hanging along the verandah
blocking the view

and the litter of her intentions
and my intentions, now that I no longer
think it worth while to intend

not quite in sight of the sprays of white
orchids outside the back-room window;”

The sounds of the line yearn outwards from “quite” to “sight” to “white”; the precision of sound in “orchids” brings the vision closer to the room as we move towards the enclosing sound which is the only aperture through which the living may stare, the “window”.

These poems move in a Poundian way and the opening of the first section, ‘Life-Sketch’ sets the reader “forth on the godly sea” as “an infinity of water” is seen “rushing under the beach to the sea”. With echoes of ‘Briggflatts’

“dusk gathered
a grey silent
depth over everything.

Sweaty summer night,
light taking years to fade

parents
out”

And in this first section of the book we move from Lincolnshire to North Kyoto and to

“A small mountain hut
in which to fade
(with peculiar inscriptions
in charcoal).”

In his 2008 essay on ‘Huts’ J.H. Prynne reminds us of the world that lies behind a word as he brings to our attention the lines from William Collins’s ‘Ode to Evening’, composed in 1746:

“Or if chill blustring Winds, or driving Rain,
Prevent my willing Feet, be mine the Hut,
That from the Mountain’s Side,
Views Wilds, and swelling Floods,
And Hamlets brown, and dim-discover’d Spires,
And hears their simple Bell, and marks o’er all
Thy Dewy Fingers draw
The gradual dusky Veil.”

In Prynne’s words “the hut is a marginally safe haven which connects very closely to the threatened invasion of cold and wet from the wild outside, and this is the vantage that the poet must summon courage to occupy, the distance from a settled and socialised habituation.”

Fulke Greville’s poem ‘Absence and Presence’ plays around with ideas of how one might attempt to convince oneself that absence has its own qualities, only to conclude “Absence is Pain”.

This collection of poems by Peter Makin is essential reading and I urge you to get a copy without delay.

Ian Brinton 4th October 2015

http://isobarpress.com

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