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Tag Archives: Peter Makin

Scaplings by Michael Haslam (Calder Valley Poetry)

Scaplings by Michael Haslam (Calder Valley Poetry)

In the introduction to issue 1 of folded sheets (foldan sceatas), September 1986, the editor Michael Haslam wrote about his new magazine venture:

“It just aims to sheaf and bind some disparatenesses, making postal ground out of what else might run the risk of being several desperate isolations, facing the claims coherence makes upon identity.”

The subtitled address on the front cover of this exciting new venture some thirty years ago told us that the folded sheets in question were “of what new poetry is posted here” and on the fly-sheet there was an announcement concerning this “unplanned serial publication of new poetry, or prose / (or prose that is comparable to poetry, is similarly motivated, or at least may be self-conscious of the wherefore of its personally spoken tone)”. The eight issues of folded sheets contained poetry and prose by Kelvin Corcoran, Ken Edwards, Peter Hughes, Simon Marsh, Chris Torrance, John Wilkinson and many other important writers of the time. Issue 3 also contained a sequence of six poems by Peter Riley whose Pennine Tales was published by Bob Horne’s Calder Valley Poetry last year and which I reviewed for this blog at the end of July. In Riley’s six poems from folded sheets we stand “Finally on the edge of night” and recognise the “dark mottled fall of light / Tensed between the houses, which is / Itself a meaning but not itself articulate”. In the ninth poem from Pennine Tales the poet stands above Hebden Bridge:

“Out of the Hare & Hounds 11:20 with Mike Haslam
and stand on the edge of the moors. Difficult
to believe that a small bus will come and
pick us up. There is nothing here but stone
walls and distance. We are alone. We are nowhere.”

This new publication from Calder Valley Poetry offers a type of echoing reply as from one walker, one traveller, to another. Its full title is Scaplings, Star Jelly, and a Seeming Sense of Soul and it opens with references to other travellers whose ghosts haunt the heady lyrical surge that moves from bank to bank of these 36 poems:

“The edifice of work and life, an old retaining wall
that long held back a seam of flaking shale
collapses as a crumpled face into a rubble pile.

From high imperium to small importance fall
impotence, imprudence, impertinence and all
the way from imputation back to impact
trail the files for miles and fail
for want of style to face the facts beyond recall.”

The echo here is of course that of a traveller “from an antique land” whose discovery “of that colossal Wreck” in the desert sands of 1817 prompted Shelley to think of how high imperium falls to small importance:

“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings,
Look on my Works ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Time and decay haunt Haslam’s masterful lyric display of fingers up and down a keyboard of Scarlatti sonatas. As Peter Riley puts it on the back cover of this delightful collection:

“On each of these 36 pages Michael Haslam sets out (on foot) into the world immediately confronting him, and gathers from it the words, experience, memories, percepts that he needs to form a poetry of rich texture. He does this singingly, so that the words echo each other and form queues, and with the sharpest awareness of all the bright play offered by language when it is opened up, when it faces its own history.”

As travellers move about leafing their way through pages of long told tales, Odysseus (“Nobody”) “steers / his craft across the shoals of an obscure idea”. The scaplings of “wedge-shaped lumps of offcut gritstone” are inserted into the mortar of language to hold the “block flush with the wallface”. Bunting would have loved these poems and I think of Peter Makin’s central book on the shaping of that Northumbrian’s verse:

“the good poem is the one that, once one has started saying its lines, an inner necessitation makes one want to say on – so interesting are the relations between the lines – through to the end.”

As Riley put it “words echo each other and form queues”; the walkers of a landscape walk over ground which shifts and changes; one which holds its original face; palimpsest:

“I view us two that day we came along the long catchwater drain
the climate light and delicate, a touch intemperate, the weather cold.
I can’t recall the exact date. The ground it seems is owned by some
consortium of infrastructure funds. When water passed
to private hands the heart deflated and evaporated from the state.

Our land miss-sold, how gently by permissive footpaths now
across their land our right to roam’s controlled! Free hearts for health
and heath. The heather blossom’s old. The physis that’s the bios,
physics of our lungs and things we hold above the ground beneath.”

To buy a copy of Michael Haslam’s Scaplings contact Bob Horne at http://www.caldervalleypoetry.com or caldervalleypoetry@yahoo.com

Ian Brinton, 23rd March 2017

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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.

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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