Thursday, 25 April 2019

EXPLORING COLLABORATION

I saw my first swallows of the season on a walk along the Bridgewater Canal last week.  I had a long week-end away in the south west of England.  First to visit friends in Taunton (where leafy suburbia provided a good dawn chorus setting), then on to spend Easter with family in Bath.  On a day out to Pewsey I noticed the pale anaemic look of fields that had recently been cut for silage.  Alas, for ground-nesting birds.  But not far away was a bluebell wood in full flower - a blue haze under trees that were just showing new leaves.

Two long train journeys gave me ample time to immerse myself in books.  All were a kind of collaboration.  I discovered A Part of the Main in Toppings' bookshop.  It's a collaboration between two poets, Philip Gross and Lesley Saunders.  Philip Gross collaborated with Jenny Pollack in the shorter Shadowplay, but this new book is longer, both in the number of pages and in the length of the individual poet's sections.  Again, there are no titles and there is a sense of an unbroken back and forth flow like a sustained tennis rally.  The book is beautifully produced by the Cardiff-based Mulfran Press and the cover is by Valery Coffin-Price with whom Gross collaborated on an art/poetry collaboration, A Fold in the River.

Blake Morrison's, The Executor, could be described as a prose/poetry collaboration with himself.  Throughout the novel are poems, 'discovered' by the literary executor of a deceased poet.  Morrison said in a talk that when he found himself writing poems which were unlike his usual work he incorporated these into the story.

My third book was Girl, a new collection by Rebecca Goss.  The cover picture is by Alison Watt   It's a painting of a piece of cloth - there's a simplicity and sensuousness about the painting that immediately draws me in.   Running through Girl are a series of poems responding to pictures by Watt (they have been described as meditations on cloth).   On the Carcanet blog Goss writes about the process and asks the questions raised by ekphrastic poetry: 'What could I add to Watt's work?  Would I just be meddling with something that was already exceptionally good and saying so much?' Do the poems work even if the reader/listener is unfamiliar with Watt's work?  The answer, I think, is an emphatic, yes.  Goss explains, 'I have never attempted to write about the paintings.  I have never set out to describe them.  My poems are about how the paintings make me feel.'

Philip Gross and Lesley Saunders A Part of the Main (Mulfran Press 2018)

Blake Morrison The Executor (Vintage p/b 2019)

Rebecca Goss Girl  (Carcanet 2019)

To read Rebecca's post on the Carcanet blog go to:
https://carcanetblog.blogspot.com/2019/04/rebecca-goss-on-alison-watt.html

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