Wednesday, June 28, 2017

drifting round Peter Philpott's poetry









From A Second Life (you can read the whole marvellous lot online):




Look we haven’t come through: the boat
took us back home, of course, how silly not
to realise these truths: only here, only now
this misty island marred first by glaciers then people
why didn’t we realise we’re free of gods but not trouble
no one left to save us but our selves, each soul
bargaining in vain not to be taken home, Ukanian Ingerlund
where the longest dead control the language & the mind
why didn’t we realise we’d be wading thru this brutish mud?




http://a2ndlife.org.uk/blog/archives/454




Last week, coincidentally, I had a work experience student alongside. Turned out that Jake hailed from Bishop's Stortford, and at the name something stirred in my mind, connected as I thought with early morning flights to Sweden, or visits to nearby backwoods in deep Hertfordshire.


What I didn't recall, until, at the end of the day,  I picked up Wound Scar Memories, is Peter Philpott being a long-term Stortford resident. Wound Scar Memories ends with a hefty discursive dazzler about the Dark Ages; Stortford's history plays quite a big part in it, along with the Germanized Brythonic name Cerdic, later the basis of Scott's invented name Cedric in Ivanhoe. (I think Scott would have been delighted to learn of a British element in the Anglo-Saxon founder-patriarch, but that's by the by.)


The quotation I started with  exemplifies a few things about PP's praxis. His poems are fast reads and probably quite rapidly written. There's usually a couple of things to consult the notes about, but the pace is important, the switching of the thought; because dynamics is part of the whole-body expression by which we come to know each other. And in this case we soon get acquainted. The Peter of the poems, though not perhaps quite all of the man himself, is a person we know. I feel I would rather talk of a person than an instrument. And yet the years of inhabiting this praxis have had cumulative value, like someone learning to play an instrument: his latest poems are usually his best.


*


Here's another extract from the same collection (poem 73):


Laughter, though, sustaining
all this miraculous disorderliness
nostalgia of the non-human
– it glitters! somehow slippery as
oh, bêche-de-mer – what allows this?
joy, skipping through our mongrel lives
to the horizon, that buffet of possibilities


Here it definitely helps to read up a little about "bêche-de-mer " (Sea Cucumbers).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_cucumber_as_food


Not just to learn that the food has a notably slippery texture, but to more fully appreciate the poem's probing away from all angles at anthropomorphism, at heroism, at ideal human shape: at Michaelangelo's David, you might say.


*


... said it did not matter if no one ever read the poem, nor even if the poet forgot the poem before it was written, or if the poet was not even aware of the poem, but dreamt it and then forgot the dream. The poem had existed, and had influence upon the world. A true reader would discover it, read it from its consequences in the world. Such readers, unfortunately, were rare; but, then, so too, were poems.


From: The fragments.  A poem based on classical lyrical fragments, apparently.
http://www.greatworks.org.uk/poems/fragments.html




Gareth Prior writing about The Ianthe Poems :
http://garethprior.org/the-world-and-the-child-peter-philpott/


About Peter Philpott:
http://a2ndlife.org.uk/about-peter-philpott


About A Second Life (and its predecessor Within These Latter Days)
http://a2ndlife.org.uk/about-a-second-age
(So far as I can make out, neither of the more recent books The Ianthe Poems and Wound Scar Memories constitutes the potential third part of this magnum opus.



Within These Latter Days
http://withinthese.blogspot.co.uk/




*


An extract from The Ianthe Poems hand-copied (under mild protest) from Blart 2 (https://issuu.com/apotheosis/docs/peter_philpot_-_dubbadea__short_). (I do think online poetry really deserves to be electronically copyable.)






oh the singing of those free children


their noses are disgusting


                        facing us and


                        gnomish like






unthanked


their own visas to here


in art


                asparagus


                soluble


                            bitter






                            outside this tight circles


                             justice is people


                             as wooden clogs






                             bears are burnt


                             unseen


                             in these streets






                             the catch?


                             great mulligatawny mops


                             strangled to live






                              bitter!


                              moving into wobbles to


                              where it's busy


                              uneasily






at last


terrible reptiles


typed up forms


don't eat




*****


Something that doesn't come across in these extracts, but is a feature of all these recent poem sequences, is what I'll term "phrase transformation".  (I'm sort of basing that on the analogy of "theme transformation" in Liszt's music.)


What this means is that while each poem stands on its own (if not quite so securely as the reader may wish), some of its words and phrases are usually transmutations of words and phrases in preceding poems. Likewise, its own phrases turn up, transmuted, in the poems that follow it.  (To give a single example, "asparagus" turns into "Asperger's".)


Without going very deeply into this, there seems to be a clear connection with Peter's perception that identity is never really unitary, that origins are never origins (there's always something that comes before them), that impurity and mongrelism are the basis of life, that we all depend on each other and can't ultimately be prised apart.




*




Wound Scar Memories is, to a certain extent concerned with Petrarch, and it openly references those two recent Petrarchiasts Tim Atkins and Peter Hughes, poets in whose work we perhaps breathe a comparable atmosphere, relish a comparable zip and humour as in PP's writings, though in other respects all three are doing very different things.




















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2 Comments:

At 10:20 pm, Blogger hardPressed poetry said...

It's a fine book, as was The Ianthe Poems.

 
At 10:18 am, Blogger Peter Philpott said...

Just to say, thanks! I have a reader! Even The Fragments - I do still enjoy them. And hand-copied extracts! And no, there isn't planned to be a third part following on from A Second Life, but I might attempt something using its techniques next. Or not. Or it might not work. We shall see.

 

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