The Lincolnshire Rising, Andrew McCulloch
Melos Press, 2019 £5.00
A pamphlet doesn’t need to identify its subject when it’s at the heart of every poem and shown in all the landscapes, images and cadence. The Lincolnshire Rising contains only twelve poems, none longer than a page and most only half that length, but each reflects quietly on one subject: loss.
This is not the first rawness of grief but the later recognition that loss drains colour and hope, and that this is enduring. These poems are controlled and stoical, poems for reading in private.
Tonight the dark looks deeply
into our upturned hearts,
its emptiness an image of emptiness.
Cold cracks the hills,
stills the wind, bites the sky.
The stars have us in their sights.
The lines above comprise half of ‘Tonight the dark — after Emile Verhaeren’, lines also quoted on the front cover, as though to guide the reader even before the pamphlet is opened. A second poem after Verhaeren (a Belgian poet, writing in French) is ‘The Pilgrim Trees’, describing a line of winter trees —
Wrapped in huge sadness, lost in thought,
they line the evening roads, let fall
their weathered grief, their last remains.
Even the pointer to personal grief, the twelve lines of ‘Late Spring’, carries only a dedication in initials: ‘For C.M.M.’ This poem contains the same ‘weathered grief’ and ‘huge sadness’. Although McCulloch writes in the first person here, the way in which he holds back the name, keeping it private, lets the all-pervasive sense of loss take the foreground:
My thoughts are clay that no new growth can break:
Nothing green pierces the icy drift.
In winter light the chalky fields ache,
Their earth too hard for anything to lift.
The more I read this pamphlet, the more connections emerge. McCulloch has a piece dedicated to Tennyson, another Lincolnshire poet. Again, only twelve lines. I wonder if (buried deep under its surface, and invisible) is Tennyson’s ‘In Memoriam’? How well the rhymed quatrains make the loss both memorable and universal; they are poems as an act of remembrance.
D A Prince