April

Immigrant Spring Poem:

When the [                ] sings before dawn
from the branches of the [                  ]
the blue [                    ]s unfurl
while grey [                   ]s circle in the skies

                                        §

At the rear of West Street an old estate wall. The buildings impinge upon each other, a stairwell into the neighbour room, a cellar under a different space. What’s now the garage used to be a bakery (the house was a fishmongery).

                                        §

From the Ham Marshes you can navigate by the church spire: Faversham’s open frame, visible from Hollowshore, the Shipwright pub.

clap hands to make the young bulls move on
(other side of the lovers’ gate)

                                        §

In the stationers I view maps on the first floor, viewed myself by the security camera. The shop’s proprietor comes upstairs and pretends to do odd tasks but is really just making extra sure I don’t steal anything.

Sometimes it seems this whole small world belongs to the National Trust and you will be able to buy preserves and tea-towels at the kiosk afterwards.

                                        §

send photographs to various people,
of this house, its particularity,
the warp in the floor, the curvature of walls

the poets are mostly silent, things close down at Lent

                                        §

Painting which looks as if it’s made through gritted teeth isn’t the only kind that’s worth attention. (1943)

To give yourself completely to what you’re doing while simultaneously watching yourself do it – that’s the hardest of all for those who work by instinct. (1912)
                                                                                                                     – Matisse

                                        §

                           back lanes to the Chart Gunpowder Mill
                           following the creek through Davington
                           then uphill to the cricket ground
                           overlooking the Almshouses.
                           Davington Pond, the allotments,
                           the back of a supermarket

                           clear nettles and dead leaves from the path
                           (these leftovers from last year)

                           take the doors off their hinges

                           (useless doors to the living room
                           detach of their own accord when opened)

                                        §

Distanced from Kenneth Slessor and Christopher Brennan, the latter  more of an acquired taste (not mine). You have to admire Slessor for the way he worked in isolation. None of his friends had the faintest idea of what he really thought; the poems got by them through force of their author’s personality (none of them would have countenanced Eliot). I keep thinking of Slessor playing Douglas Stewart a Kurt Weill record. Stewart thought it was a practical joke. But why does Slessor erupt here?

                                        §

Of all noxious animals too the most noxious is a tourist. And of all tourists the most vulgar, illbred, offensive and loathsome is the British tourist.
                                                                                                  - Francis Kilvert (1870)

                                        §

                           at Knole, the weight of history,
                           the rotting canopy of a four-poster

                           those fearsome kings and clerics
                           – enough to bury Vita Sackville-West
                           were she given the chance
                                                                           (how could Knole
                           be regretted?

 

                                                            adjourn
                           for lunch, Shoreham,
                           a fold in the North Downs,
                           the Darent
                                                – no trace
                           of Samuel Palmer, the most excellent
                           Mr B.
                                             a footpath, signed
                           under ten feet of water

                           further up the road,
                                                               Lullingstone,
                           its mosaics and hot baths out of place
                           in this landscape

                                                            then, nowhere,
                           the approach to Dartford,
                           chapels lost with infill

                           it’s Easter

                           day of the exploding coffee-pot

                                        §

At Winchelsea, the site of a windmill destroyed in the storms of 1987, as the fallen trees of Knole, only a grindstone and some foundation slabs next to a trig point up above the marshes.

                           Ford Madox Ford’s house,
                           in a back street (the town
                           strangely without shops; a pub
                           that pretends to have lunch reservations)

                           Rye, choked with traffic,
                           a haze across the marsh

                           Bank Holiday: a motorcyclists’ convention

                           from Rye Harbour, Camber Sands
                           dotted with bathers, the nuclear plant
                           at Dungeness

                                        §

                                          write, he said,
                                          poetry, that sense
                                          follow sound, not
                                          endless digression
                                          the quagmire of
                                          expository prose
                                          instead this
                                          this this (as if
                                          you knew it, what
                                          it was. instead it’s
                                          a chain of un-
                                          being, dis-
                                          connection, a place
                                          for which there’s no
                                          vocabulary, a set
                                          of images, not
                                          the one sharp thing, the
                                          light in this room
                                          nebulous, the space
                                          between other things.

                                        §

bluebells, tulips, climbing plants (honeysuckle), a holly bush that needs pulling out
cinerarias, potted, in the window

a car alarm in the Faversham night

what dumb music?!

and the days go by . . . and the days go by
(why I am not a painter)

pull out the holly, roots deep
under stone
                                       wash clothes

how much of this
already structured,
an idea, not a thing
(though ideas are things)?

                                        §

                                          a finger, trimmed
                                          with secateurs
                                          makes for shaky writing

                                          spring, season of accidents

                                          (incident / accident, it’s
                                          all the same in Italian)

                                          (the geranium incident)

                                          1698
                                          a salve
                                          a salvo
                                          salute!

                                          the Bird, or
                                          the Bishop’s Finger

                                          either way
                                          I’m all thumbs

                                          settling after, to read
                                          the origins of disco,
                                          subversions of dance

                                          things that happened
                                          while I gazed at my shoes

                                        §

The world of these first years in Nice is a world behind glass . . . the world infinitely repeated in a kind of insistent, existential loss. As if the light one had to obtain resulted in nothing but solitude, and demanded a fatal renunciation.
                                                                                   – Dominique Fourcade on Matisse

                                        §

                                          cuttings, dead leaves
                                          from two seasons back
                                          bagged
                                                                  tulips
                                          now open, yellow,
                                          streaked with red

                                          a fragment of glass
                                          under the end ridge tile

                                          take the sun, before
                                          it disappears behind
                                          a neighbour chimney

                                          signs of life: clematis
                                          honeysuckle

                                          the chimney shade angles
                                          across the terrace, light
                                          full on the wall
                                          with the hanging rose

                                          heavy scent of malt
                                          from Shepherd Neame

                                          a fine evening
                                          and a very quiet night ahead                                        

                                        §

. . . the house was still
and quiet
                                 (a children’s book read in the bar)

Sitting in the yard this afternoon I’m beginning to be convinced that I’m actually here for the foreseeable future.

                                             (the garden still
and quiet, save the drone of a bumble-bee)

help! I’m becoming a Georgian!
(nature and the pub tempered by cyberspace)

gillyflowers high on the walls

this is where I live
this is who I am

                                        §

                    a television ‘black hole’
                    (our place in its midst)

                    Madness! I mean Madness, not
                    madness (playing in the bar)

                    North Sea wind takes the warmth
                    out of the warmth

                    opposite Front Brents, photographing mud

                    am I losing weight?

                    are friends electric?

                    could I make a book
                    called ‘Sequiturs’?

                                        §

The response to Matisse’s work: that it looked terrible, but then everything around it started to look dull. Then, almost at the moment of acceptance his work was seen as retrograde, the Cubists and Surrealists had seen to that (though Breton had earlier championed him). The paintings done in Nice in the 1920s, products of existential terror viewed as comfortable domesticity.

horror vacui

Hilary Spurling attributes Matisse’s twenties ‘orientalism’ as much to the developing cinema industry in the South as to earlier visits to North Africa. The drapes and ‘sets’ within the apartment owed as much to the sets observed out in the streets.

                                        §

a suicide bomber in Bagdhad’s parliament

mysterious death of bee colonies

the ‘terror’ is a constant (the 1970s a lapse, otherwise
it’s been this way since 1914)

                                        §

out on the stones (the tiles?),
a sheltered place in the yard
(no thinning here of the bee population)

the profusion of plants, their shapes,
reminds of Albrecht Dürer,
that obsessive detail (Dürer
or a spliffed up Billy Jones)

smoke from an unknown source
(farmers burning off, still?)

                                        §

An afternoon spent on an Islington balcony to the distant sounds of Arsenal, the tube crowded later with red shirts. Today, in the heat, to Chilham, a walk through Godmersham Park and back through Ridge Wood, carpeted with bluebells. Mail from Ken. An article from the Adelaide Monthly on the appearance of a certain French painter – Mr Goggin – from the South Seas, visiting Masonic contacts early in 1903.

                                        §

                              bird tracks on
                              mudbanks
                  a river
                  repeating itself
                              Wordsworth nosing through
                              the shallows of art (the revised
                              ‘Prelude’)
                                          the year
                                          the calendar
                  a flimsy excuse

                              lying in this bed, naked at 10 pm,
                              the room still hot

                                                   to step into
                                                   Gloria Petyarre’s
                                                   landscape, or
                                                   the other side of the glass
                                                   painted on by Loma Bridge

                                                               where has the bravado
                                                               of the 1970s gone?

                                        §

Found, as a placemark in Louis MacNiece’s Collected Poems, a receipt from Tranby Aboriginal Cooperative.

The train approaches London. Quickly. Slowly.

                                        §

A duck on the garage roof, and one below in the yard (yesterday morning a group of mallards asleep in the middle of Thomas Rd).

The last light
in the upstairs bedroom

smeared windows

equilibrium

                                        §

                        in the Anchor, end of Abbey St
                        reading maps of Brighton/Hove
                        and Gravesend/Rochester
                        positioning roads and villages
                        observed from the train,
                        the way their relationship alters
                        between view and diagram

black ink appears grey
on yellow paper
                                    (smudge)
the darkness is absorbed
leaving a penumbra on the page

                        a long gallery between bars
                        appears as a mirror image
                        but the space is actual (the chairs
                        are different, a lampshade
                        not reflected elsewhere.
                        one clear window amid the frosted
                        views the street towards the town centre,
                        past the house of Arden
                        (Arden of Faversham)

                                        §

Stonehenge from a distance appears like a replica of itself; around the standing stones the lesser verticals of tour groups.

haze, descending into Somerset

 

                        at Beer Head, the cliffs, red and white
                        the distant wreck of the Napoli
                        cranes in position, listing to starboard off Branscombe beach

 

                        Ottery St Mary, the green man
                        and the elephant man, both
                        beneath the painted cross-beams of the church
                        (clover, stars and fleurs-de-lis),
                        the clock a calendar, various members
                        of the Coleridge family

 

crushed leaves of dock alleviate the sting of nettles

 

                        obsessive ceilings (the Victorians
                        particularly the Arts and Crafts types
                        at Knightshayes, these
                        boarded over only years after completion,
                        discovered a century later

                        the Victorians cushioned by stuff
                        the bric-a-brac of empire, this
                        maybe the true origin
                        of modernism and ‘postmodernism’:
                        things forced into genre

 

After which we are lost on the roundabouts and one-ways of Tiverton, forced to travel south when we want east.

                                        §

Things grow measurably the three days we’re away.

It’s the anniversary of the Kinder mass-trespass. Various accounts appear in the papers. Yorkshire singer Mike Harding organises a concert. But one reviewer notes that the legacy of open country is its current takeover by the middle-class. Indeed this is true (expensive real-estate, the tone of NT and Heritage literature). The working classes who may have had a shack near the beach found themselves threatened with demolition orders for desecrating the landscape. And it’s now expensive to leave town (outrageous rail fares &c). The trespass can only carry its legacy where it remains possible to walk out of a city.

                                        §

                    it’s a difficult transition
                    into this mannered landscape,
                    but do I mind my own nuances?

                    not really

                    John Forbes! where are you now!
                    and how would you situate yourself
                    amidst this: the consequence
                    of Empire
                                                     (that some of ‘us’
                    come ‘back’,
                    Windrush and Earl’s Court
                    and so it goes
                                                     (we become
                    annoying columnists and book reviewers,
                    or rather our predecessors do, or did
                     (not me, not my good intentions)

                                        §

Walk through the dull backblocks of Faversham parallel to the Whitstable Road. Cross the railway and through fields, rape, hops and corn, to the church at Goodnestone. The path loses itself on a modern farm. Ford a small stream, then up a hill alongside cherry trees and across the motorway to Fostal and Hernhill, its village square. Through the Mount Ephraim Gardens to Boughton and a bad pub (The Queens’s Head).

No matter how accurate the map there’s always a point where you get lost.

                                        §

recipes, lists, dream journals

                                        §

Upstairs at 8.15 am, the Kent earthquake. 4.5 on the Richter scale, epicentre: Folkestone. Then a walk from Selling station up through orchards to Perry Wood. Along a ridge, views out to Lees Court (W) and (S) over Shottenden, the rape fields.

birch, holly, rowan

Down a steep slope then up another to view an earthwork, then down into Selling itself, through Gushmere, and across the railway to Boughton Church. Then through a golf course to the village.

                                        §

                    how diffuse the light, a bright blue day
                    with cold northerly gusts

                    move to the south side of the house
                    from which to watch, but not feel the briskness

                    the sway of a fruit tree two doors up

 

                    a small dog, nails
                    slipping on floorboards

                    the light hangs around
                    as I check maps, locations for tomorrow’s walk

                    the minimum of drear infill

                                        §

Our house was once one half of next door which is now half of the door after, if that makes sense. The original wide doors no longer open, due to subsidence. This is the origin of ‘flying freehold’ (their cupboard opens onto the wall of our stairs; the internal entry to the cellar is theirs, the external ours – a new internal built subsequently). The old beams mostly salvaged from ships, hence the curved shapes and the slots for cross timbers. The ships predating the building a century or more (deforestation already a problem?).

                                        §

                              a puma, rumoured once
                              in Canterbury


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