Mr Larkin on Photography and Other Poems,
Red Squirrel Press, 2016 £6.00
Burst of freedom
Many of these poems are formal and intriguing. They’re clever, deft and moving. Take the sestina ‘The Women in Delft’. I enjoy this poem, could spend time pursuing its thoughts around corners, ‘The surfaces still keep / Us guessing’:
Are we – the viewers – meant to have a hand
In them and come to see what artfully
Has been concealed?
The poems too are often funny. Here’s the start of ‘Adam and Eve Take an Allotment’:
The figure in the shadows stared at Eve
And shook the beans inside the bag. ‘Believe
Me, crops of serpentini beans [… ]
I enjoy this work, admire it. And am moved too – by ‘The Woodshed’, ‘Face at the Window’, ‘Gurney: at the Front’.... But nothing quite prepares me for the surprise of the final eleven pages.
Entitled ‘Youth: An Abstract Expression’, this longer, largely-prose poem consists of seven sections: ‘Large White Square’, ‘Pacific: Placid Blue’, and so on. It draws you into a world entirely on its own terms – I think, in part, a boyhood in just(?)-post-war Britain.
Here’s one extract, from the opening section:
Outside among the lamps, a sea of golden streetlamps, a young boy looks up at the stars. A car moves around him, but he is still.
Settled in the back seat of a car, unsettled by the space around him, a small creature settled in bed considers the lonely space that weighs so little and so much around him […]
Somehow this freedom (from form, from line break) seems to open a world where kerbstones take on enormous proportions, where the new-build estate breathes life into a war-torn past (but things are almost too still). To me, it’s incredibly vivid:
People are odd shuffling mysteries clutching plastic bags, suitcases, cardboard boxes. They gather in a bus station, the drunk, the man going home from his inexplicable shift, a woman reading a paperback. A single girl.
A whole life seems folded in its lines. With its rich detail, and own layered reality, it spans a lengthy coming-of-age before ending movingly ‘in the real world at last’.