Monday, October 18, 2010

chill poetry for eyes and ears (Jean Sprackland)

so... today was definitely the right day for reading jean sprackland's collection Tilt. the wind, the temperature on the train to work, the mutterings of the tracks. but before i tell you about this book, just a quick note on the side - a site i came across when looking up jean online - this might be interesting to you if you like poetry and if you are, like me, curious.

i believe poetry is about as personal as writing could possibly get, so hearing the voice of the poet is always interesting to me. i remember when, in school, a teacher played us a recording of dylan thomas reading "fern hill," "do not go gentle," and - most of all - "death shall have no dominion" - i was stunned. (the links will take you to youtube videos with audio recordings of thomas reading these poems)

anyway. here is a site that has lots of recordings of english language poets reading their own work: (and the link to jean sprackland is, she is also involved in the making and running of this site)

and now the book. it is a fine case of packaging matching content. the book itself is slim, with a cool, simple cover design. the title poem is quite something. so are pretty much all of the others, too! poems containing cows, crime scene investigation, anesthesia, love, miracles, loss, pirates and sandcastles. you will run into fish and chips and babies and waterfalls and shards of ice on a beach. the strength of her poems are in the simplicity of the images, and the chilling moment when it all falls into place.

there are many "cold" images here, so maybe that's why reading this today, on an autumny october day, felt so right. here is an example:

But thirty miles south,
in another town, [the ice] creaks
under the pier, where someone kneels,

staring down like a god
through a damaged sky, onto wilderness
of ridges and blue shadows.

(from: Ice on the Beach)

what i also found very interesting was the sequence of poems titled Miracles. six poems look at the ministry of Christ from an angle that is tangible, surprising, anachronistic - sprackland transplants doubting thomas onto a bridge across the M6 (a busy english motorway), translates the first miracle of water turned to wine (at the wedding in cana), and lets the reader witness the casting out of an evil spirit. i personally really enjoyed the way these stories - handed down over generations and generations - take on a new life in a new light.

the book begins with lying down, waiting, and ends with moving about, an engine, a powerful force for good, "breathing in the spoilt air, / and breathing it out clean."

i was going to put another snippet or two here but... i don't want to give too much away. it would be difficult to pick out bits and pieces and still do the book justice. i guess you may just have to read it yourself...

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