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Spaces by Clive Gresswell (erbacce-press)

Spaces by Clive Gresswell (erbacce-press)

This is a neatly produced chapbook from erbacce-press which is nicely laid-out and has a cover design incorporating (I think) a photograph of the author which has been adapted into a double-image by Alan Corkish.

     There are 21 poems, each titled and each taking up a page. The overall title relates to the layouts of the texts which are split mainly into phrases, single words and occasionally longer pieces, halfway towards sentences, which suggest narrative structures but are fragmented and full of what I can only call texture. For me this is the most interesting of Gresswell’s recent chapbooks as there’s something almost Shakespearean about his use of language, where a variety of dictions interplay and resonate to great effect. There’s certainly a lyrical element to this work but it’s mixed with a dark foreboding quality which talks of ‘our times’ and has a sort of apocalyptic quality throughout. Take this poem on page 15 as an example:

          Dawn

          the roar of dust       seeps through    this island

          & settles on                the cooling       coastal walks

          where gypsies         comprehend     essential pleasures

          & grips upon              the vain wrath    which weeps

          in and out                in out   in      gentle   harshness

          of winter storms    captured     and    capitulated on

          trials    and           childhood dreams  rehearsed the blue

          and calming grey    of the sea’s     once charming

          vernacular ripped      the throat      into gargled pieces

          from screams and night       sprawled      anecdotes those

          enchanted visions       curling           rushing by with

          no aftermath or            naked         ambition shoved off

          the sands & holocausts   to temptation’s taut temerity

          the shallow        fields   of   memory    sucked deep

          into nature’s       glistening       awakening of tomorrow. 

There’s enough space here for the reader to fill in the gaps with his or her imaginings which is seemingly the entire point of this work. If the communication is partial it also suggests a degree of communality and shared experience 

     From ‘Shore‘ we get the following: ‘the taste infringes     salt   on the tongue / the bitter       taste     of effigies / redundant     from       the holy war.’ Throughout these poems there is a playful use of language which is harnessed to something darker. Nature is ever-present, whether with a sense of recuperation and as a place of retreat or as something much harsher and menacing. There’s a beauty to these shards and phrases – ‘golden memories recycled & harmony   reboiled / in among the     snakes     of     wrath their / seething      nightmares   claiming in sleep.’ (from ‘Sleep’) but it’s always tempered by something more sinister and unsettling. Nevertheless I found these poems pleasurable to encounter as the balance of the phrasing and the conflicting textures of the writing make for an enticing read. Take this opening sequence from ‘Face’, for example: 

          through mists & mischief miscreants

          from days of       their bauble dalliance

          the embellishments  of   their grievous

          circumstances   the knotted question

          of their day’s    abeyance abundance

          of their fortitude    & let alone such

          gratitude       …….  

     These are essentially playful poems but the tone is more often than not dark and would seem to reflect a collective as well as an individual sense of things going wrong. As I suggested earlier these are poems for our time.

Steve Spence August 25th 2022

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