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The one you love

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This is entirely written, of course, in the additional hour -- the one that went backwards in the middle of the night and meant that I got up at half past eight instead of half past nine.

It's been a week of coming and going, between Glenrothes and Killin, so it was a muddled half-holiday because I got the holiday dates confused this year. Matt stayed there all week. I drove back to work, then back again, acquired a migraine midway through the week and descended into a kind of Autumn sludge, from which I admired the foliage (and started to work through the accounts). Some amazing, amazing trees. Such a glory! You can see from the photos that stormy rain wasn't far away but  the contrast between the black clouds and the golden beeches was a feast in itself.

 

Autumn glory, or some of it.
Autumn glory, or some of it.

Last night, while the hour was doing its double act, the wind was raging and the rain lashing, with the result that most of the leaves are now down. The red rowan outside my study window is all bare branches. Still, winter is a good time for working, and all those leaves are mulching merrily.

Nice to see that Salt's proposed online Review includes an element of 'rating' for poetry books. Great minds think alike (or 'Fools never differ', as they used to say when I was at school). But Sphinx pamphlets get not one, but three reviews and the overall stripe rating is based on visible criteria and an accumulation of three ratings. I still worry about this, though, despite the fact that I like the way it makes you put your money where your mouth is.

Because what happens if the collection as a whole strikes you as creaky, but there's one poem in it -- one that makes you sit up and think WOW? Maybe it's accidentally brilliant, but who cares? Or even one part of one poem that stays with you long after you put the book down, a part that follows you round the house even when you're hoovering? It's interesting that a bad poem in a collection -- even an abysmal poem -- is forgivable and forgettable provided the one you love is also there.

In an interview that's in the current issue of Sphinx (still with the printer but about to go out soon), Peter Sansom says (in response to a question about the current situation in poetry publishing): "But really I’m only interested in poetry, and not even that exactly: I’m interested in poems and, to some extent, poets."

That's made me think long and hard, because perhaps I feel the same. I have to find one poem to connect with in any volume before I can start to get my head around the whole book. When reading new submissions, it's often a single poem that clinches it for me: sometimes two or three. That's what starts the drive to want to find a whole set that'll make a publication. And when I think about the poets whose work I love, it's really individual poems I think of: Ode to Autumn, Spring and Fall, The Collar, Mending Wall, The Lie, Damson Boy. Even then, I probably wouldn't want to rate an individual poem. I'd rather love it. Here I am undermining my own system. This'll never do!

 

Killin in Autumn
Killin in Autumn

 

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Guest Friday, 25 July 2014