Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

‘Euclid’s Harmonics’ – Jonathan Morley

Ink Sweat & Tears Press, 2016   £7.50  (includes P & P)

Finding a way in

It took me a long time to find a way in. I had to work at it. I thought it was worth it.

The title name-checks Euclid. The back cover blurb mentions a lost manuscript by Philemon Holland (from which the title is drawn), and something about Holland inspiring the Baskerville typeface. Then some words about the author – Jonathan Morley – and his years in Coventry and various adjectives saying how good it all is, as back cover blurbs are expected to do.

Open the pamphlet, and you find a 3-page preface about Philemon Holland, though it doesn’t mention him till the second paragraph. Do you read prefaces? I skipped it. Take me to your leader (the poems).

Ah but . . . when I got to them I didn’t know what I was doing or how to read, or where Euclid fitted in, if at all. I began, nevertheless, to be intrigued by sections that looked like footnotes but weren’t really – or I don’t think they are. It was these bits that hooked me in, despite the tiny print.

Thus I found my way into the set of poems, and backwards, and even finally persisted with the preface, though it’s far less engaging than the poems. Which are like flashes of this and that, bits of the author’s experience of Coventry: place, landscape, people; multiple types of language; scraps of imagined (I think) reality from the past; and bits of Lord knows what. A patchwork quilt of scraps of material: fascinating.

I still like the footnote pieces best. And some things are worth working at. Here’s a flavour (‘shee’ is the moon), though don't assume the archaic English runs right through. This poet draws on numerous modes and voices:

when men are also sound asleepe
the dull nummednes thereby gathered

shee casteth the old coat that cloggeth
become dim and dark, shee rubbeth

Fox layeth his eare close to the yee
guesseth thereby how thicke the water is frozen

out of Pontus the sea alwaies floweth
and never ebbeth againe

 

Helena Nelson