Iggleheim’s Ark, David Kinloch
Stewed Rhubarb Press, 2022 £5.99
All on board
These poems have superb coherence. They belong together unusually well, so much so that the reading experience for me was outstandingly rich and rewarding, though almost impossible to describe. Where can I start?
The central image is a three-storey vessel, constructed on the Rhine by a German Count in 1524 to save himself and his family from a widely predicted flood. The end of the world was imminent, it seemed — though it proved to be only the end of Count Igglesheim’s world. When it started to rain, a crowd of panicky locals, desperate for a place on the boat, stoned him to death.
That much is fact, according to Google. David Kinloch has apparently added the detail that the Count ‘loved beauty above all else’ and had built the ark to save his favourite paintings. When the crowd attacked and Iggleheim met his end, the paintings were chucked into the Rhine.
But the pamphlet itself is a metaphorical ark, in which the paintings are saved in the form of Kinloch's responses to them. Moreover, inside the ark of the pamphlet (and the arc of the poems) there are word-paintings of the vessel with the paintings inside it — a sort of Droste effect. This can be seen in the extraordinary starting poem ‘Swifts’ (one of the few not to name-check a well-known art work):
They fly so high
in streams of air
the sea below is like a lochan round
the ark that ships their portrait,
its tiny sea and tinier selves
In reading this publication, I have been on such a voyage! I have had a marvellous time encountering astonishing exhibits, both whole works and detail.
For example, I’ve surveyed Dürer’s Rhinoceros (and noted his starring role at the end of Fellini’s 1983 film E le nave va). I’ve marvelled at Botticelli’s The Mystical Nativity. I’ve revisited Andrea del Verrochio’s Tobias and the Angel (from the point of view of the dog) and Ghirlandaio’s The Last Supper (from the point of view of a peacock). I’ve marvelled at night skies and the constellations: Columba Noachi and The Bear. And more, far more.
Each time I step back into Igglesheim's Ark, I want to stay there. Yes, you need to take Google with you but the boat’s bigger inside than out. Plenty of room for any number of readers. So far as I can see, it's unsinkable.