Naomi’s Poem,Tom Sharp
thepoetryofitall.com, 2019 £15.00
Flocks and folds, and a joy forever
This limited edition pamphlet is a thing of beauty. But its first reading cannot be replicated — unless you buy another copy. That’s because the pages are uncut, and access to the text requires a paper-knife, time and care. The reading experience is indivisible from the experience of the physical artefact, slitting the delicate French folds one by one, holding the delicate paper close (because the typeface is small), fingering the delicate threads that bind the spine in black triangles.
Twelve texts on twelve pages, written for the poet’s sister month by month, during a year when she was diagnosed with a ‘desperate’ health condition. Time for the reader to reflect on each section before lifting the paper knife once more. A sensual, intimate experience to read like this. It feels personal. It feels privileged.
As I read, and re-read, I grew curious about a particular language detail. Two poems are quoted here: Marlowe’s famous ‘The Passionate Shepherd to his Love’, four lines of which appear in section 1. They hark back to the innocent, eager confidence of childhood companionship — the ‘ago’ that the poet talks about in section 7.
The last line of section 12, and therefore the last line of the whole booklet, is a quotation from another poem — The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd’. So it’s Sir Walter Raleigh’s voice of weary experience here at the end: ‘Time drives flocks from field to fold’. But why has Tom Sharp omitted the definite article before ‘flocks’ (Time drives the flocks from field to fold’)? I don’t know. Perhaps he misremembered it.
Or perhaps it’s a deliberate change in rhythm and emphasis, a way of making the phrasing resound differently. There’s a heavier footfall on ‘Time’? Perhaps these flocks are not sheep, but flocked paper? The last word is ‘fold’ and by the time you reach this point, the last ‘fold’ of the publication has been cut. The story (and the poem) has literally unfolded. It lies in your hands — pure, white, and most moving.