Saturday, 24 January 2009

interiors & apparitions

'"What have you been reading, then?" I ask her,
Experimenting, experimenting.' (Roy Fisher, from this book)

Roy Fisher, Ten interiors with various figures. Tarasque, 1966First new old book through the door this year was Roy Fisher, ten interiors with various figures (Tarasque Press, 1966). Approx. 148 x 157 mm (width identical to Fisher's Bloodaxe Collected in fact -- which is a surprisingly nice book in a completely different way ). There are some very long lines in these poems, and it's interesting to compare this first complete publication (some had been in mags before) reproduced from typescript, with the later re-setting, to see different decisions about carry-over that are not wholly determined by the grid. Both form and content seem to point as much toward prose fiction (thinking e.g. of some work by Douglas Oliver, John Hall or David Miller) as much as to a poem sequence. A first-person consciousness interacts with another, in ambiguous, naturalistic scenarios.

But perhaps it is more usefully related to painting than to fiction -- as by Robert Sheppard, who discusses the sequence in his chapter on Fisher in The Poetry of Saying, which can be previewed thanks to Google Books (sorry Robert -- I will certainly purchase a copy at some point ...). He reveals that Fisher actually used pictures as models for these poems. The cover image is (presumably) by Stuart Mills, the publisher: printed (screenprinted??) in white on the stiff black cover, I can't really fathom it though the gestalt seems clearly facial. Some kind of hybrid derived from anglepoise lamps and umbrellas? a pair of spectacles emitting, rather than receiving, light ...?

Another recently-acquired piece of print to be filed today is the programme from the T.S. Eliot Prize readings a fortnight ago. These readings are always an enjoyable conspectus of 10 of the year's best mainstream collections, and the booklet constitutes a mini-anthology. Happening today to read Mary Doty's inclusion, an 'Apparition' (this seems to be a generic term used in his latest book). Scenically it too is an interior with figures: the poet hears a boy reciting a favourite poem -- Shelley's 'Ozymandias' -- in a bookstore. It's enviably articulate, artfully constructed, charming and serious. In organising the poet's emotional apprehensions into polished syntax it takes the reader on the same journey, providing everything you need -- and requiring nothing back. It's complete; and that seems its lack. In Fisher's place, the other person isn't framed away, the first person isn't assured, things aren't finished up.

Doty's poem can be found online (try googling e.g. "loping East Texas vowels"); Fisher's Interiors are only quoted here and there.

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