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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

Versions of Martial by Alan Halsey (Knives Forks And Spoons Press)

Versions of Martial by Alan Halsey (Knives Forks And Spoons Press)

This whole collection brims over with outrageous delight. Of course there are the smutty sexual innuendos, the more direct insults, and the bitter spitting from carious teeth. But there is much, much more and it is a tonic to be able to recognise the satirical sharpness of some of these versions of Martial’s ‘Epigrams’ given the mixture of crocodile tears in today’s world: a child’s body is washed up on the shores of a Greek island; the International Arms Fair opens in London where DSEI ‘will host around 300 seminar sessions and keynotes across seven theatres…facilitating knowledge sharing and networking around key topics and technical areas’. Give me an ounce of civet good apothecary…Or, a page or two of Alan Halsey’s Versions of Martial:

Book III: XXXVII

‘How explain why the conspicuously rich
are so easy to offend? Ask their accountant.
He probably won’t tell you but he’ll know.’

Book V: LXXXI

‘In the Big Society the poor stay poor
and cabinet ministers stay millionaires: it’s a law.’

Book VII: LXXIII

‘I know all about the houses you own,
you’ve described them so often
in such detail—I know the views from
their every window—but, Maximus,
you’ve never told me your address.’

When Laurie Duggan’s Pressed Wafer edition of The Epigrams of Martial appeared five years ago he introduced the little bombshell by saying that ‘faithful translations of satires, while possibly of use to historians, tended to lose the satirical element altogether. For satire to bite as it ought to its objects should be at least generically recognizable and as so much of Martial’s work is ad hominem a good dose of the particular was essential.’ This approach is very much in the style of Charles Tomlinson whose review of the Loeb Classics 1994 edition of Martial praised the unpretentiously accurate approach of the translator by suggesting that ‘it helps the reader to the mental possession of the original’. I am also reminded of the preface Tomlinson wrote for his Faber edition of John Dryden’s poems in which he suggested that the Augustan poet’s Fables Ancient and Modern (1700) ‘made it new (in Pound’s phrase) especially for poets themselves’. August Kleinzahler wrote a brief afterword to Duggan’s Martial giving an account of how these pieces had originally been published in the Melbourne journal, Scripsi: ‘This Martial bit then. It bites still.’
For satire to ‘bite’ we have to be able to recognise the scale of values that has been so debased by the object of the satire. Urbanity and friendship, directness and honesty: it is in their absence that we recognise the power of their presence. Many of Alan Halsey’s poems give us the self-portrait of a man who is saddened by rudeness and contemptuous of arrogance:

Book II: V

‘I don’t mind the two-hour walk
it takes me to see you, Decianus.
I do mind the two hours it takes
To walk home when for reasons
Of your own you haven’t seen me.’

The tone captured here is reminiscent of that biting edge Ben Jonson put into his ‘Epigrammes’ when he damns ‘The Townes Honest Man’ or confronts ‘Captayne Hungry’:

‘ Doe what you come for, Captayne, with your newes;
That’s, sit, and eate: doe not my eares abuse.
I oft looke on false coyne, to know’t from true:
Not that I love it, more, than I will you.’

Halsey’s updated version of this type of barb will sound familiar to quite enough ears, I suspect:

Book III: XLIV

‘Myself I like to lounge on my sofa,
take a stroll, a shit, a bath and a nap
in peace and quiet. Who doesn’t?
You, Ligurinus. That’s why we feel suicidal
when we meet you. What you call life
is a solo nonstop poetry recital.’

Buy this book from http://www.knivesforksandspoonspress.co.uk and carry it around in your pocket like an orange pierced with cloves in a plague-ridden city.

Ian Brinton 25th September 2015.

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