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Poet of the Week – 10: Conor Carville

TWO RIVERS PRESS POET OF THE WEEK—10: CONOR CARVILLE

Conor Carville was born in Armagh city in Northern Ireland. He went to school at St Patrick’s Grammar School, where the poets John Montague and Paul Muldoon were also educated. After that he studied Law at Trinity College, Dublin. On graduation he moved to London, where he worked as a solicitor in a legal aid practice in Tottenham. In the mid-1990s he left the law and took an MA in English Literature at Goldsmiths’ College and then enrolled as a PhD student at Oxford, under the supervision of Terry Eagleton. While at Oxford he won the Friends Provident National Poetry Prize for an unpublished poet. In 2007 he won the Patrick Kavanagh poetry prize. His PhD was published as The Ends of Ireland in 2012, and his first collection of poems, Harm’s Way, came out from Dedalus the following year. Samuel Beckett and the Visual Arts appeared in 2018 from Cambridge University Press. A second collection, English Martyrs, is published by Two Rivers Press.

Conor Carville writes:

English Martyrs book coverI began what eventually became ‘Bless’, the sequences that closes English Martyrs, in the winter of 2013, just after my first collection was published. That book, Harm’s Way, includes poems written fifteen years before. This time, I thought – hoped – things would go more quickly.

We’d just moved to a new house in South-West London, after ten years living in Elephant and Castle, near the English Martyrs church, after which my second collection is named. The title poem, set in that church, describing its odd wooden sculptures of Thomas Campion, Oliver Plunkett and other saints, was written just before we left, as were most of the other poems in the first part of the book.

After the move I would write very early in the morning. There was a little nook in the eaves, below a window looking North towards Wimbledon Common, about four miles away, though all I could see were TV aerials and chimneys, and the steadily lightening sky. I’d recently read an interview with Toni Morrison, where she’d talked about starting to write in the darkness before dawn, and watching the sun come up as she did. I liked that idea. And I also remembered how John Montague had told me he wrote immediately after waking, to be closer to the dream-life. But the routines of parenting were also a factor: our daughter had started to sleep a little later in the morning. I, however, was still waking up at five.

So it was here I got going with ‘Bless’. The initial line of the first poem in the sequence was the first thing I wrote. It came out of nowhere but caught a mood that I wanted to pursue. It’s a cannibalization of the first line of the film Apocalypse Now, ‘Saigon, shit, I’m still only in Saigon’, with Wimbledon substituting for the Vietnamese capital.

Francis Ford Coppola’s movie was one I’d watched endlessly on video in a shed in an Armagh back-garden in the early 1980s. Like most of my friends I was obsessed with it: the images, the dialogue, the music. The violence. But for me there was something else too – as the camera tracked across the bookshelf in Kurtz’s bivouac, I was introduced to literary modernism: Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Eliot’s The Waste Land. Even now I can’t think of Kurtz without seeing Brando’s oily dome, and when I read Eliot’s lines about Stetson, I think of a bare-chested Robert Duvall in a cowboy hat.

So it seemed a perfectly reasonable idea to begin a long poem, set in suburban London, based on that hallucinatory cinematic epic. It gave me a kind of template that would, I hoped, enable me to write fast and without too much self-consciousness. And so it proved, the poems coming very quickly, often one a day, riffing on scenes from the film, or characters, or some of the themes and motifs that Coppola nicked from Eliot and Eliot from Conrad, Wagner and so many others. Against these I shored my own fragments, especially the myths and totems of my childhood: The Wombles, Bagpuss, The Moomins. By the time I had got to about fifteen poems there existed a kind of molten, slow-moving churn that went on perpetually up in the eaves, attracting all sorts of crap and debris into it, even while I was not at my desk. Holderlin and Axl Rose. Karl Schmitt and Jimmy Savile.

And yet, were I to describe what I had at this point as ‘poems’, I’m stretching the term considerably. They weren’t really poems. Not yet. They were sallies, rushes, convulsions. The main thing was that all together they seemed to be adding up to a world that was sufficiently distinct from, yet familiar to, my own, that I was eager to return to it every morning. In the end it took another five years, on and off (mostly off), to revise, edit and organise the sequence into a finished state. So it wasn’t as speedy as I hoped it would be, and I wrote many poems that didn’t make it into the finished sequence. I publish one of them here for the first time.

REGAL

Wimbledon, shit … I’m still only in Wimbledon,
and here’s you seated on the sofa growing
stronger by the second. Nowadays
the slice-and-dice of rotors overhead betokens

not the smoking-out of a crack-house, or a Wessex
fossicking its way across the drumlins,
but the Bells or Sikorskis that bring
oligarchs to Chelsea in the Spring. Bless.

Bless them all: Camberwell and Peckham Road.
The South London Press and its small-
ads for jumble. A black Gola hold-all
dispatched one October from Aldergrove,

accompanied by its callow minder, me:
the hold-all that held all: a change of clothes,
a duty-free carton of Embassy Regal,
and my extensive travelling library

of one book, a 21st present that July:
the orange-spined, white covered edition
of Gunter Grass’s The Tin Drum,
largely unread, even today.

‘You mean to say, you were telling me lies?’
Yes. ‘You mean to say you never read those books.’
No. ‘All those books you save on your phone?’
I have never opened a book in my life.

[from English Martyrs]

PIRATES

Stuffed animal planet,
a dayglo orrery of fur greased
smooth by cuddles and drool.
Mike Kelley in Venice, remember?

And the black yachts shining
on the Riva Ca di Dio.
Or the Coppermill
on Cheshire Street

where Paul McCarthy unleashed
his Dionysian buccaneers,
that bunch of freaks
with their latex masks and makitas

and merkins and codpieces
who clubbed me to the deck
with a jeroboam of mayonnaise
then shot me in the head.

We woke up deep underground
in the tenth and final circle
of the EuroDisney queue
for Pirates of the Congo,

to find a couple of cowboys
spearing bales of hydroponic
with their sizzling tridents,
then shaking them into the bolgia

as if forking straw into a trough.
That snow of burning seeds and pods
strafed our skin like glitterball reflections
and we joined the others in their laughing dance.

[Uncollected]

 

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Poet of the Week – 9: Jane Draycott

TWO RIVERS PRESS POET OF THE WEEK—9: JANE DRAYCOTT

Jane Draycott’s first two publications from Two Rivers Press were projects of characteristic collaboration and partnership, each published with accompanying images created by TRP’s visionary founding editor Peter Hay: Christina the Astonishing, a meditation with Lesley Saunders on the life of the medieval saint reputed to have flown like a bird from her own coffin, was published in 1998, followed in 2002 by Tideway, a collection of poems about the Company of Watermen and women working on the London river (including work first published in TRP’s Waterlog journal and shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem).  Storms Under the Skin, her most recent Two Rivers publication, is a collection of translations from the artist-writer Henri Michaux and is a Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation. Other collections include The Occupant (a PBS Recommendation), Over (shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize), Prince Rupert’s Drop (shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection) and a translation of the medieval dream-elegy Pearl – all from Carcanet Press.

Jane’s interest in dream narrative and elegy has led to developing associations with mental health-care professionals, including writer-psychoanalysts Adam Phillips and Caroline Garland, via the British Psychoanalytical Society, the NHS Tavistock Centre and the Freud Museum London, and to performances for Medicine Unboxed.  Other collaborations have included three projects with the British Film Institute: Essentially British (2008), Psychopoetica (2011) and Poets for Pasolini (2013). Jane teaches for the Arvon Foundation, the Paris Institute for Critical Thinking (PICT) and the universities of Oxford and Lancaster. She is an Advisory Fellow for the Royal Literary Fund and co-producer on their Writers Aloud podcast series.

Jane Draycott writes about Storms Under the Skin:

In 2011 I discovered the poetry of Henri Michaux in Edwin Morgan’s wonderful Collected Translations (Carcanet 1996) and was immediately caught by the wry, mercurial invention and psychological truth of his poetic imagination.  What kind of mind, I wondered, thought like this:

Carry me off in a caravel,
in a sweet and antique caravel …
In the false velvet of snow.
In the breath of a little knot of dogs.
In the nerveless ranks of dead leaves.

The more I read of Michaux’s work, the more I knew that his was a poetics I admired and envied in equal measure – playful, searching and serious, operating with all the strange and seamless logic of dream.  I wished I could write like him. In essence I began translating poems from his collections of the 1930s and 40s partly as an act of advocacy – more people should know about these! –  and partly as an apprentice to his hallucinatory poetic world, treading as closely as I could in the traces of his extraordinary imaginative mind and alert lexical ear.

Born in Belgium in 1899, a friend of Gide and Supervielle and a companion of the Surrealists, Michaux was as self-effacing as he was original, shunning publicity, declining France’s Prix National des Lettres, rarely photographed. Outside France he is perhaps best known for his work produced during his mescaline experiments of the 1950s, but few people this side of the Channel whom I asked seemed to know of his poetry. When I wrote to TRP editor Peter Robinson proposing a book-length collection of translations, I had no idea whether the concept would appeal. I count myself eternally lucky that he said yes and that Michaux could become an addition to the Press’s growing strand of European poetry in translation, joining Geoff Sawyers’ Rimbaud (The Drunken Boat – so finely and unforgettably illustrated by Peter Hay) and Ruth Spiers’ translations of Rilke.

So began my third Two Rivers adventure in what has always felt wonderfully like a collaborative process towards publication – Peter generously editing the growing manuscript, Sally Mortimore steadfastly pushing through the painstaking permissions process, and Nadja Guggi and Sally Castle turning it into a beautifully designed publication finally in 2017.

Seamus Heaney wrote of translation’s value to the writer as an act of refreshment and – in Dryden’s term – of transfusion, of writing by proxy. When I began work on Storms Under the Skin, I was just finishing the manuscript of a collection of my own poems and was indeed in serious need of refreshment. Like writing a new poem of one’s own, each new translation was an attempt to find what pieces of the work would glow in the dark, trying hard to really hear what was there, and to know why that might matter. Discovering the work of Michaux gave me the chance, in the words of Zoran Anchevski’s ‘Translation’ as rendered by Sudeep Sen, to sleep ‘on the pillow of someone else’s dreams’. Two Rivers gave readers the chance to discover just how extraordinary the dreams of Henri Michaux are.

THE GIRL FROM BUDAPEST

In the warm mist of a young girl’s breath I placed myself
and then withdrew. I have not left that place. Her arms
weigh nothing. Coming to them is like coming to water.
Every faded thing evaporates beside her – only her eyes remain.

Fine long grasses, fine tall flowers grew in our meadow.
So light a burden on my chest, how heavily you weigh there now.
How you press on me, now that you are not here.

ICEBERGS

Icebergs – no safety rail, no lifebelts –
where storm-tossed ancient cormorants
and the new-dead souls of sailors lean upon their elbows
in the far spellbinding northern nights.

Icebergs, icebergs: religion-free cathedrals
of eternal winter, draped in the ice-sheets
of planet earth. Such height and scale,
such purity of profile born from purest cold!

Icebergs, icebergs: backbone of the North Atlantic,
noble frozen Buddhas in un-contemplated seas,
death’s shining lighthouses that lead the way to nowhere
where the wild cry of silence echoes on for centuries.

Icebergs, icebergs: lone solitaires, lands going nowhere,
needing nothing, far away and vermin-free.
Parents of small islands and of well-springs,
how well I see you now, how familiar you are to me …

[from Henri Michaux, Storms Under the Skin: Selected Poems 1927-1954 trans. Jane Draycott]

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Poet of the Week – 8: Steven Matthews

TWO RIVERS PRESS POET OF THE WEEK—8: STEVEN MATTHEWS

Steven Matthews is a poet and critic who was born and brought up in Colchester, Essex. He has been a regular reviewer of poetry for London Magazine, Poetry Review, and the TLS, and Poetry Editor for Dublin Quarterly Magazine. Waterloo Press published Skying, his first collection of poems, in 2012; On Magnetism, his second collection, appeared from Two Rivers Press in 2017.

In 2016, Steven was one of three inaugural poets-in-residence at the Museum of Natural History, Oxford, and created new work for the residency anthology Guests of Time (Valley Press). Filmed readings of the poems are archived online here. A poem from the residency was set as the final part of a song cycle for soprano and string quartet by Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Those Endless Forms Most Beautiful, which was premiered in October 2019. As part of his work on the creative-critical response to Wordsworth’s The Prelude published as Ceaseless Music, Steven collaborated with The Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere, on to a two-month exhibition at Dove Cottage, ‘Sounds of Wordsworth’, together with composer Paul Whitty. Aspects of this work, including ‘Stepping Stones’, a new sequence of open sonnets, are archived here.

Steven Matthews writes:

Perhaps because of the current situation, I have been thinking a lot again about the powerful hold that my Nana’s memory has over me, and the role that she played in tuning me in to poetry. We met up with her and granddad outside about twice a year, for a walk by the river at Mistley. Otherwise, Nana would be found always settled deep in her brown armchair at her council house, her photos of family by her side. But, from that armchair, she seemed to govern the district; people were constantly walking in the always-open front door to ask advice, seek opinions on feuds or marital disputes.

Nana always kept her strong-clasped handbag by that armchair, and would fish out sweets for us, endless tissues for the endless colds; but, sometimes when she did so, small newspaper-clippings would drop out. She scoured the local and national papers for bits of verse that she wanted to keep by her. After her death, granddad started his days by reading some of them out loud for her; I have her favourite in my desk drawer here. To Nana, poems clearly offered some sense of the possibility of saying something which she could not herself have put into words in this intense and concise way. That they were always, unbeknownst to most of us in the family, carried carefully folded away in her handbag makes me think that she saw these poems, however sentimental, as constant companions, always there as possible ways of interpreting whatever, in a normal day, might befall her; the poems offered what sense of understanding it there was.

I’ve always thought that that first moment encountering poems showed me everything about what they can do in a life, and what we are trying achieve in making them. They abide with us, and inform us in the literal sense. Even when they seem most ‘impersonal’, they are finding ways to figure, and figure out, what most moves and explains us. I’m struck by the fact that the male poets from my lifetime who I most admire share what might loosely be called a labouring or working class background (W.S. Graham, Les Murray, Geoffrey Hill, Seamus Heaney); but they find very different technical solutions to framing their background on that spectrum from personal to impersonal. (The woman poets I most admire are notably free of that class implication: Elizabeth Bishop, Louise Gluck, Jorie Graham, Paula Meehan).

My own sense of creating shapes in and through poems is of trying to pull something through to a telling, and hopefully memorable, conclusion. A friend who reads much of my work before it is printed tells me she thinks I’m too hooked on endings; but I do feel that that moment when hopefully you sense that things have been brought into single focus, what Yeats called the ‘click’ of the closing box of the work, is the one that we are all looking for.

David Hockney has recently advocated that we all ‘look hard at something and then think about what we’re really seeing’. Poems do that if they work, combining both the looking and the thinking – because they are set to a different kind of time, they create time where we can think differently, time where we can commune in different ways. Time, the time poetry takes, and the time poetry makes happen amidst the accelerated happenings around us. Time as what binds us, as what poetry especially alerts us to; the time of poetry as a necessary way of talking to, and about, what could not otherwise be said.

 

SOUNDING THE CANAL

Five harsh days of hard frosts,
the canal path a glistening ribbon
of solid mud, the canal’s crystalline
surface parading
the canal-bed’s detritus –
logs, branches, a bike frame,
rocks of clumped earth,
a tracery of skeletal leaves
bolted into the solid substance.

Only when you began prising
small pebbles out of the path from
their thumb-print mud pebble-beds
and skimming them swiftly across
the frosted canal surface, was life
to be re-heard:
dull-zingings, light dashes of sound
sounded deep through the canal’s base
echoing beneath and beyond
the canal bridge,
               disturbing
the out-of-their depth, ice-bewildered
geese to clatter into air.

[from On Magnetism]

 

RED MASON BEE

A skilful artist,
her fine ginger hairs
were her deft paint brush,
ever-yellowing
as she danced the air
dabbing pollen grains
pink blossom to pink
blossom, tree to tree.

The finger-nail sheen
inside snail shells glowed
as she layered rose
petals for her nest,
then laid an egg there,
bunged each shelter-hole
with chewed clots of soil,
all to incubate.

[Uncollected]

 

Steven Matthews reads “Sounding the Canal”:

Steven Matthews and Naomi Wolf in conversation about the importance of poetry in these times of climate crisis:

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Poet of the Week – 7: Susan Utting

TWO RIVERS PRESS POET OF THE WEEK – 7: SUSAN UTTING

Susan Utting was born in South London, moved twenty times in forty years, then settled, after a fashion, in Berkshire. Notions of home, identity and where she comes from frequently feature in her writing, and are explored in her most recent work, along with the shifting lives of other women. After a patchy education (she failed the 11+) and a series of undemanding jobs, she was persuaded by an employer to apply to Reading University to read English. She gained a first-class degree, went on to study Creative Writing at Sussex University, which she then taught at Reading for more than 17 years.

Susan’s awards include an Arts Council Laureateship, a Poetry Business Prize, The Berkshire Poetry Prize, The Peterloo Prize, and a writing fellowship at Reading’s School of English and American Literature. Last year she was a winner in the Bristol International Short Story Competition. Her poems have been widely published, including in The Times, TLS, The Independent, Forward Book of Poetry, The Poetry Review and Poems on the Underground. Her work was selected by the London Poetry Library to be recorded for Poetry International at the South Bank Centre, where it was broadcast with various international poets’ work. Her latest Two Rivers Press collection, Half the Human Race, follows and includes selections from three earlier books: Striptease (Smith/Doorstop), Houses Without Walls and Fair’s Fair (Two Rivers Press).

Susan Utting writes:

Some time ago I was asked to say in no more than twenty words, where my poems came from. I said: ‘from an itch at the solar-plexus, a corner of my mind’s eye, or in through my ear like insistent music’. A lot has happened to me and my writing since then, but the answer still stands. A poem’s imminent generation is physical: an itch, a glimpse; and I have always had a love of the sounds of words, their musicality. As a pre-reading child I would repeat in my head like a chant a new word or phrase I liked the sound of cylinder, Hollander, colander kiosk for example, as quoted in my poem Catechism. When I began to learn the meanings of words, that a word could have more than one meaning, it felt like magic. I did live ‘in a place with beech in its name’ and the fact that that word (all this before I knew about spelling) could be a tree as well as a stony place by the sea at Brighton where my grandparents lived, was a revelation.

My poems have to sound good, out loud and in my head, and be rhythmical too. Rhythm is natural to me: it’s simply the way words emerge. I grew up with the rhythms of dance – my parents taught ballroom dancing. My mother was a talented all-round dancer – which I think may explain this.

I was delighted when the poet-reviewer Philip Gross wrote: ‘Utting unashamedly loves language…’ I do. I love the meanings and subtleties of language, the varieties of what words really mean, have come to mean, can mean and also mean – all those correlations and resonances. One of my most treasured reference books is a dictionary of etymology. I enjoy finding and making new connections between disparate words, ideas and narratives. E. M. Forster’s ‘only connect’ is a phrase frequently in my mind.

I have always striven for clarity in all my writing, but I think we can respond to a poem on an emotional level without necessarily understanding every word, every notion or image. If it engages us on first reading, intrigues or moves us in some way, we will read and re-read it, live with its language, imagery, rhythms and cadences. I believe that all poetry should be accessible, eventually.

Over the years my work has explored many areas of experience, many topics of fascination. When I first began performing my poetry I was described as a feminist poet. Though I would prefer the term ‘womanist’, I think engaging with, examining and showing the lives and situations of women has been a constant in my work. That became clear while putting together a New & Selected: ‘the lives of women, particularly those who are too often overlooked, unseen, hidden or silenced’. I want to make those all-important connections, to understand the lives of others while examining my own. I write poems in an effort to unpick the tangle of ideas and memories, of emotions and preoccupations in my head. Making patterns of words on a page is the best and most pleasurable way I know of doing it.

REPORT TO THE DEPARTMENT OF AUDIOLOGY

My skin is glass paper, a gravelly rub, the tips
of my fingers are match heads; my leg-bones
click-clack, syncopate to the floorboards, their
whiplash and skitter. Stairs are a tap-dance,
metal-tipped; there’s a hum I’d forgotten,
a knock I can’t place, music I don’t remember.

I swallow; there’s an echo, liquid as liquid,
then high at the back, the plumbing’s hi-hatting,
tom-tomming. And my voice! It’s a reedy song
– hush-hush it, girl, save it for later –
For now, plastic bags are maracas, tap water’s
Niagara, the plughole’s a Looney Toons glug.

Outside, I’m eavesdropping the world,
its chirrup and whoosh, its overhead roar,
its ten o’clock wail, tittle-tattle, its holler
and clank. A single magpie: its dirty croak
is a joy. I scratch an itch and my fingernails
thrill, I’m alight with the noise of myself.

At the flick of a switch I was wired.
Now I’ve fallen, coup de foudre, a sucker
– go on, say it, girl! out loud! – a lover
of sound, head-over-heels with cacophony.

[from Half the Human Race: New & Selected Poems]

HOW TO BE INVISIBLE

Wear a headscarf, long wool skirt, solid boots.
Sit on a folding canvas stool in the precinct
where the people flow and spend; unfold
a blanket like a river over your knees.

Bear the fine rain, horizontal wind, smile,
drift, be here but elsewhere: stretch a blanket
like an ocean over your sleeping daughters,
your one son, hum the song that soothes,

keep the words you know by heart, inside,
synchronise your breath with theirs, soft,
softer still, tuck the blanket tighter, closer;
dare to daydream home.

[First published in Poetry & All that Jazz (2019)]

https://www.susanutting.com/poems.html

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Poet of the Week – 6: Peter Robinson

TWO RIVERS PRESS POET OF THE WEEK 6: PETER ROBINSON

Peter Robinson was born in Salford, Lancashire, in 1953 and grew up mainly in Liverpool. He is an internationally appreciated poet, whose Collected Poems was published by Shearsman Books in 2017, and has been awarded the Cheltenham Prize, the John Florio Prize, and two Poetry Book Society Recommendations for volumes of his poetry and translations. The Salt Companion to Peter Robinson edited by Adam Piette and Katy Price appeared in 2007 and a new volume of critical studies edited by Tom Phillips, Peter Robinson: A Portrait of his Work, is in development at Shearsman.

Book cover image

He has also published aphorisms, short stories, literary fiction, and his six volumes of literary criticism are in print from the university presses of Oxford, Cambridge, and Liverpool. Two Rivers Press has brought out two of his collaborations with artists: English Nettles with illustrations by Sally Castle appeared in 2010, and Bonjour Mr Inshaw, with paintings by David Inshaw, is one of this year’s books. Two Rivers Press also publishes Foreigners, Drunks and Babies: Eleven Stories (2013) and his second novel, The Constitutionals (2019), whose main character takes daily walks around Reading to help recover from a cruel virus. Peter Robinson is Professor of English and American Literature at the University of Reading and the poetry editor for Two Rivers Press.

Peter Robinson writes:

“My poetry, and much of my other writing, can be understood as an exploration of the word ‘repair’. It is a form of sheltering from experiences, and an emblem of the need to mend or make amends when selves and others have been damaged or harmed. This theme is regularly and appropriately associated with my being the witness at gunpoint to an act of sexual violence over forty years ago, which has impacted on all my work and in particular on a sequence of poems in The Other Life (1988) and the novel September in the Rain (2016).

However, it is probably unlikely that I would have responded to that experience in those ways had I not been born into the exact locations of L. S. Lowry’s paintings and brought up in a series of impoverished urban parishes in Manchester, Wigan, and Liverpool. The industrial and domestic architecture and the ravaged and re-wilding natural scenery of those places has shaped all my responses to the world, and I have taken the need to find artistic interest in such textures with me to scenery as far flung as the mountains, plains, cities and coasts of northern Italy and the volcanic landscapes of northern-eastern Japan.

My wife, Ornella Trevisan, who specialised in environmental biology at university, has undoubtedly helped enlarge the scope of that commitment to reparation and ‘repair’. If asked to give an account of my many and various writings produced and published over the best part of half a century, I would think that this dominant thought, derived from the art theories of Adrian Stokes, has been the shaping spirit that has compelled me to want to produce works that aid in the mending of ourselves, our societies, the inhabited environments on which they depend, and of the suffering world itself.”

AT SLADER’S YARD

There’s a corrugated-iron roof,
its undulations flattened
by settled years of lime-green moss;

it juts into repurposed space
where stone-wall textures are revealed,
enhanced by sparser finishes,
framed pictures hung against it:

a dusk cloud risen behind a hill,
the portrait of one tree in moonlight,
another strafing seagull …

They emphasize the edges
letting on bare sail-loft opposite:
a dried grey wood interior
where all the thrifty meanings start.

Then, me too, I’m a counter of clouds
come over the hills like this one
‘salmoning’ in a ‘deepening blue’;

they fill up turning windscreen glass
(you see I’ve put the car in too)
above West Bay’s horizon

with a borrowed sharpness, focus
from promptings given by
that pink house under its precipitous cliff.

Recounting them, you’re at least alive to
how this word-cloud builds and disperses
ideas like a Nordau’s or Lombroso’s –

and how they’re clouds themselves, these verses.

[from Bonjour Mr Inshaw, 2020]

THIS OTHER LIFETIME

Green shutters open on an early sky;
in the Casa Divina Provvidenza
even its room doors, closing, breathe a sigh.

With time, heat would release your love,
till evening’s fresher breeze,
then starlight, the companionate,

and talking on a phone, you see
her hurry towards our rendezvous
beside Mazzini’s statue in the square:

an open face, still trusting as you like,
enlivened with enthusiasm,
unfazed by time and, no mistake,

that’s the zone from where all this life came.

[First published in The London Magazine, February-March 2020]