Brief Comment on Books Received,
and Previews of Books on the Way.
SOME OF THESE, it will be obvious which, have not been seen yet, because they have not yet turned up here. This is thought to be a problem of the British mail delivery services rather than of the publishers or authors.1
1. Harold Massingham, Selected Poems. Calder Valley Poetry 2021. 106pp paperback, £12.50
I thought there were no more to be discovered, especially after James Keery’s massive rescue operation in the anthology Apocalypse (reviewed here). Massingham lived 1932-2011 and his first book was published in 1965. He should not be confused with his brother, also Harold (H.J.) , who was a successful “rural” author (The Wisdom of the Fields, etc.). The Harold under review was most of his life a “poetry tutor” at Manchester University, and also known as an eminent crossword compiler.
I remember his name as a member of the “Peterloo Group” in Manchester c.1960 (which was a cross-arts promotional venture without any particular literary programme) but only now realise that he worked a quite radical position in strongly figurative writing without romance. What he most resembles is perhaps the earliest Ted Hughes, a schoolmate, than whom the opinion has been aired that he is better, but that depends how much of Hughes has to be set aside as infantile cardboard cosmology. I don’t think he would gain a strong position in the “Apocalypse” bracket because for all the alarming displacements of vocabulary, the technique is grimly controlled and the final message is ironic. He comes up from Auden rather than Thomas, but he can perform stark verbal displacements in the middle of standard poem subject-matter which don’t send you searching for implications. Rather, the leaps are of such width that you seem to get landed somewhere completely different, word by word, while you are also exactly where you were, because the modernist tropes are treated like a kind of benign nuisance.
The inclusion of versions of some Anglo-Saxon verses seems entirely in keeping.
Angels! That blinding air of quarry,
Storm-coast or desert strands us, a dawn
We can’t face. Like things in acid, the lorry
Is vanishing. The café window’s a radar screen.
Snow’s clogging the gullies reservoir-deep.
Snow’s packing that earth-logged backbone.
There are hours to ask what may be born.
This publication is a good example of how a small (one-person) outfit can still take on serious and necessary publishing tasks while the bigger poetry-emporia announce again and again how “excited” they are to have delivered yet another volume of self-advertisement.
2. Roy Fisher, The Citizen and the Making of ‘City’, edited by Peter Robinson. Bloodaxe Books 2122. 288 paperback,
A gathering of his earliest writings in verse and prose, culminating in two variant versions of City (1960), the bulk of it previously unpublished. His running commentary on himself as a poet. (A lengthier comment on the book is in the works and will appear in The Fortnightly soon.)
3. John Welch, Yes, Today. Oystercatcher Press 2021. 14pp pamphlet. £5.00
Always that sense of pending trouble and the quest for definition and settlement. A small batch of rather tense and searching poems with light at the end of the corridor.
4. Jeremy Hilton, Fulmar’s Wing. Knife Fork and Spoon Press,
March 2022. 88pp paperback.
Twelve stanzas of this impressive long poem were previewed in The Fortnightly Review and can be found here. The book is scheduled to be published in March, 2022.
5. Tom Lowenstein, The Bridge at Uji. Shearsman Books 2022. 80pp paperback, £12.95.
“I sat by the bridge for half a day some years back watching the water flow in one direction while foot passengers and traffic moved across at right angles.”
6. Peter Dent, Yarn. Leafe Press 2021. 72pp paperback, £9.00.
Peter Dent has written and published a lot over the years (a list of 30 titles at the back), almost all of it in the form of prose poetry (which some denizens of creative writing classes seem to think is a thing of liberating revolutionary impact which they invented last week.) I think that his writing has gained in clarity and openness, and become more of a spoken transcript, without losing that necessary edge. He didn’t used to begin with sentences like “Swapping manifestoes in a hurricane isn’t how you do it. China’s a case in point—with a wall and GNP…” He kind of tip-toes into global anxiety. A Fortnightly sample from 2014 is here.
7. Carola Luther, On the Way to Jerusalem Farm. Carcanet 2021. 146pp paperback, £12.00
I am impressed by a strong sense of form nurtured straight out of the particulars. The sense basis of the poem is normally recognisable, mainly in personal experience in an illuminated social/terrestrial theatre, but the very fabric of the poem seems to have been built out of the vocabulary of the experience or the purpose of the thought, recast without disturbing the initial condition, which is ordered into lines or scattered into sparkling word-showers, all of which seem just right for a purpose, which always remains perfectly clear, whether it is morally empowered or sheer entertainment. A substantial poem, “Birthday at Emily Court”, is a blend of social comfort and biological anxiety which only gradually reveals its commitment to fate. (It can be read here in The Fortnightly Review, along with, another poem, “After the Flood”.)
One result of this is a sense of lightness, even delight sometimes, in the act of transfer, which dominates Luther’s
book. So I look for the most serious poem I can find, which is an elegy for the poet Mark Hinchliffe, and it is the same there, correctly crestfallen but with the same unavoidable sense of gladness which is a function of the authenticity of the rendition into public script rather than a possession of the author.
8. Linda Black, Then. Shearsman Books, 2021. 104pp paperback
See four new poems, or prose poems (it makes little difference which), here in The Fortnightly.
9. Alan Halsey, Remarks of Uncertain Consequence. Five Season Press, forthcoming 2022.
“A thematic gathering of uncollected poems, prose & incidental notes 2009-2021.”
Peter Riley, the poetry editor of The Fortnightly Review‘s New Series, is a former editor of Collection, and the author of fifteen books of poetry (including The Glacial Stairway [Carcanet, 2011]) – and some of prose. He lives in Yorkshire and is the recipient of a 2012 Cholmondeley Award for poetry.
Peter Riley’s Collected Poems, containing work from 1962 to 2017, was published in two volumes by Shearsman in 2018, followed by Truth, Justice, and the Companionship of Owls from Longbarrow Press in 2019. An earlier book, Due North, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize in 2015. A collection of his ‘Poetry Notes’ columns has been collected in The Fortnightly Reviews: Poetry Notes 2012-2014, and published in 2015 by Odd Volumes, our imprint. A second volume is in the works. An archive of his Fortnightly columns is here.