Monday, July 27, 2020


In these final days of clearing out and cleaning up there was something incongruous about Peter Philpott's new poetry book arriving through the letterbox but my efforts to ignore it were brief and I'm already about halfway through my first read. There's something irresistible and pellucid about PP's projects. This latest one would be the perfect gift for any lover of Dark Age history, Brecht and experimental poetry, and that's definitely ticking my boxes. But beyond that, it also has this breathtaking and seemingly effortless lyrical thinking:

where is there to go?
everything full
utterly green
lie on the lawn
watch the swifts
yip, yip, yip

keep on writing
it all isn't full
everything open
words on the page
swifts are here
quicker than aircraft

what you wrote won't go
fullness comes later
green and open
words in the air
swiftly they dive
beautiful craft

keep saying the same
let fullness hold
foliage at its peak
above us only air
the dancing of swifts
actually this

[Yes, that's a deliberate John Lennon allusion.]

This is the first poem in the book. It's a calendar book, and how can I help placing this opening beside the opening of another beloved volume, Carol Watts' Occasionals?

So sit down with your green tea
as if this was your last day, leave
the ledgers unfinished and overdue,
and tell me what you take with you,
now, the sounds of instruments ringing 
on pavements, a crow mulling over
trails of aeroplanes, everyone out
in the town, and sirens going.
Not enough to take that flickered.
Light and the lift of it. Spiders hang
in mating season, gorged bodies
weighted there, still, not washed out
by the rain, these last three days.
Hydrangeas shoot pale green flowers
at the end of the season as before it.
You could turn it on its head. Think
it does not end here.

(from 23 September 2006)

Carol's book (published in 2011) ran from September to September. Peter's book runs from July to June; or rather, from After-Lithe to Lithe, because he's using the intriguing Anglo-Saxon calendar described by Bede in the fifteenth chapter of his De temporum ratione.

The ingredients and recipe of the book are described with Peter's customary and refreshing candour in his introduction. There's no need to be tight-lipped about it, the life-giving mystery of the writing and the world remains intact. As in this first poem, the fullness that's never full, the air so open yet such a harvest for the shrieking swifts.

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At 8:51 am, Anonymous Billy Mills said...

It arrived here, too.


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