A cold spring, poetry, and time

It is, isn’t it. I’m bloomin’ freezing. But yesterday was lovely and sunny, and the books are pouring in for review. The James Merrill biography has arrived – all 3 kilos of it, I reckon – and I’ve been getting in the mood with his Collected Prose and (of course) some poems, so there’s a kind of wonderful ‘Changing Light’ feeling going on at the moment. Look at this, for example, from a poem called ‘Time’; it really captures what the wee hours have been like lately here in Baroque Mansions:

All day you had meant
To write letters, turn the key
In certain friendships, be ticked through at dusk
By hard, white, absent faces.

Let’s say you went
So far as to begin: “It’s me! Forgive…”
Too late. From the alcove came his cough,
His whimper – the old man whim sunset wakes.
Truly, how could you bear another night
Keeping him company while he raved…

Well, and today’s batch is like a meditation on time in itself. A surprisingly fat envelope delivered three books: Jim Carruth’s debut collection, Killochries, a hill-farming novella in very spare (‘thrifty’) verse; Other Countries, an anthology edited by Claire Trévien and Gareth Prior and subtitled ‘Contemporary Poets Rewiring History’; and Steve Ely’s second collection, Englaland (which is anything but thrifty, frankly, and indeed includes a soupçon of the poet’s characteristic Anglo Saxon). Ely quotes William Faulkner: ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past’. All these books will in some way rewire history, I know, including the present.

Which is what I for one feel like I’m doing every day…

The old man talks in code:
fables and parables

biblical and otherwise.
Today it’s a dairy heifer

who wouldn’t accept
her place in the byre

but roared a protest
from her stall…

No more for now, as I’m contracted to review these books, and I haven’t read them yet. And now I must go and rewire today before it blows up in my face, or simply fizzles out before dark…

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