Cursive, Vishvāntarā
HappenStance, 2015, £5.00

Where is the poet?

Of course, there’s always a ‘poet’ present in poems, just as there is always you – the reader. Sometimes a silent observer; at other times a reliable (or unreliable) narrator. At very least, a ‘point of view’ (POV), as they call it.

Sometimes another character – I, or she or he – also then appears. This may or may not be ‘I’, the writer – and you may (or may never) know whether it is personal. It often doesn’t matter.

However, sometimes, to my mind, a poet appears in a poem or a set of poems in a way that’s much more vital and humane than this.

I think of a moment in a long poem (‘Diary of a Night in Matlock Bath’) in Peter Sansom’s collection Careful What You Wish For, where the poet, ‘burdened down (not like me)’, lies down ‘tired beyond sleeping’, in a wood, ‘where no path was’.

For me, this poet is more bodily present within the poem than most – and allowing himself to be seen as utterly human – and that is what moves me.

I am grateful for poems like these, and Cursive is full of them.

Whether addressing a woodpecker, a stag, or a mouse, or entering a deliciously empty kitchen (while everyone else attends 7 am meditation), part of the poem’s ‘story’ is the relationship between observed and observer.

Far from poems of detachment, then, these seem to me poems of attachment. And, frequently, it’s human relationships that come under scrutiny – ‘the sadness’, Vishvāntarā writes, in ‘The Service’, ‘was for all acts of love/ so reasonably and innocently rejected’.

Here often is love – unspoken, missed. The complex dance where our awkwardness becomes itself part of the pattern.

I’ll close with ‘Visit of a Great Spotted Woodpecker’:

He looks around, upside down (I adore him!), makes crunches
my coach would be proud of, to jab-angle down at his seeds.
His outline makes half a heart-shape. I discover
my mind, behind the caravan curtain, is the other.

Charlotte Gann