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Trumpets Stuffed With Cloth by Ralph Hawkins (Crater Press)

Trumpets Stuffed With Cloth by Ralph Hawkins (Crater Press)

This is a beautifully put-together chapbook filled with beguiling poems/texts which appear to combine found materials with non-sequiturs and aleatory work which is full of surprise and wit. You’ll never get bored reading this stuff.

     There’s a sense of the hermetic about these pieces insofar as they feel self-enclosed and often generated by a thought, some vocabulary, an artwork (Hawkins is very influenced by visual art-forms) which then becomes the wandering focus of the whole. At the same time there are political references and nods to ‘the outside world’ which keep you very much on your toes. 

          de chirico

          in the paintings there are few signs of people

          yet there is evidence of creation

          in the towers and squares, the sun

          being the centre of it

          I am running into the distance

          attached to shadow

          afraid they will catch me

          I hold up his baby daughter and smile at her laughter

          movement clashes with stillness

          journey with time

There’s an anxiety around the phrase ‘running into the distance / attached to shadow’ which is also beautifully poised and anyone remotely familiar with De Chirico’s work will pick up on the evocation as well as the wonderful balance of the lines. 

          did maisy meet gertrude stein

          before she was born Maisy knew she would become great

          she told her mother so

          she composed her first poem in Crayola

          a town of bright colour and scribbles

          it was based on a poem

          by a Portuguese writer her mummy read to her

I presume the ‘Maisy’ in the title refers to the Maisy in the children’s books and the reference to Stein suggests a level of wit and sophistication born out in the construction of the piece, aided by ‘a Portuguese’ writer who could be Pessoa even if this adds a degree of anachronism. It’s a delightful poem. Some writers would labour over the ingredients in such a composition, but I get the feeling with Hawkins that this comes together quite ‘naturally’ from a stock of associations, experience and reading which has matured over a long period. This theme is further explored in the following poem:

          like lemons are lemons alike

          unlike lemons were green, blue and even pink

          the house was generic and in the Canadian town of Saskatoon,

          ice-skating through the long winters

          her teacher gave her a list of authors to read, a golden treasury,

          copying passages from the german ideology and everyone talks

          about the weather

          and there in bright orange (a citrus theme) and custard yellow

          was the sun, insistent, driving Maisy on like a big engine

          it wasn’t long before she took up a paint brush and

          people died in a series of squiggles

The closeness of ‘a golden treasury’ and ‘the german ideology’ made me smile, especially when followed by a reference to ‘the weather’ yet this is how it is, how things come together in a composition of this sort, everything feels so easy and familiar even when the components aren’t so obviously so. The final line is both charming and chilling. The earlier reference to ‘ice-skating’ has the feel of a colourful postcard and I’m reminded of Tom Raworth here in the quick-witted play and shifts in subject.

     The cover image is an arresting one and the ‘back to front’ cover title is unexpected. I liked the exposition about the typefaces used as well, something that publishers used to do back in the day. This is a lovely little booklet, stapled and with a thick card cover, an artefact enclosing a neat array of poems, something to brighten your day.

Steve Spence 29th July 2022

2 responses »

  1. Pingback: ‘Trumpets Stuffed with Cloth’ by Ralph Hawkins – Crater Press | gravyfromthegazebo

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