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:
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
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
Reblogged this on The Wombwell Rainbow.