Friday 7 March 2014

Thorn Corners - The Book (erbacce press)

Here's the cover for my new book, Thorn Corners, available soon from erbacce press. And below is a short introductory essay to the book which the editors asked me to write. It's a book of minimalism, and I'll certainly give you a shout when it arrives. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these personal reflections on minimalist poetry:


In the beginning, a boy sits on a tiny, plastic chair in front of a wooden desk, flipping the lid of a tin open and pouring out a batch of tiny strips of card. On each of the cut up strips, a word is written – one word, just one word. He is able to arrange the strips into rudimentary sentences, shapes of words on thin slivers of paper, brought together to form something basic that might mean something to him:

   “boy”, “sits”, “on”, “chair”, “is”, “happy”.

Tiny letters, tiny words, tiny phrases – the building blocks of language. The foundation for so much thought, memory, emotion is laid, is felt on the fingertips, smelt in the tin, and always, later, that desire to return to the simplicity, or complexity, or mystery of the single word, the shortest phrase.
Minimalist poetry is primal. It springs from the first seed of learning. It is quantum, as the poet Mike Cannell has said, because it deals with the subatomic particles of language. It is cellular, microscopic, alive, because in that tiniest, barely observed detail, a whole body of meaning is opened up.

In minimalist poetry of the sort I enjoy, words are magnetised, drawn together by sound and shape. You might say letters are like particles – if they are moved by the observer, the poet, something unexpected happens. The reader is given a quantum surprise. Syllables are atoms, pulled together by sonic vibration to form molecules which combine to dance in unusual patterns across the page.

So what might the page be?

The white space around the poem reminds me of the underlying field of consciousness on which all words and thoughts are written. It is the bliss from which experience emerges. It is where we come from, where we return to when the world/word ends. Tiny fragments of language on a white page open up an infinite universe of something left unsaid; a gesture can cause the world to burst. And the reader falls in and sinks down and loses himself and drifts with the current and swims against the tide; all the poet has done has been to shift a letter, turn a word upside down, melt two words into one. mIEKAL aND says:

   “brevity rearranges the reader’s expectations of having the poet do all the heavy lifting.”

For me, the perfect poem is made up of three words. As the old book says:

   “a threefold cord is not easily broken.”

Three words are trinity, treaty, tripartite triple whammy. So much meaning can be suggested by three words, so much beauty. A word, too, on its own, a pwoermd, can explode meaning, take a reader so deeply inside language, he or she might lose their bearings and be washed ashore on the broken shells of the alphabet.

   “The pwoermd is made for the hyperliterate, for those so deep within the word that they have forgotten the sense of words except abstractly, for those sensitive to the meaning of a serif (and it is there), for those sensitive to not only the sound but also the sight of the word. For those who can smell the size and weight of a word with their eyes closed.”

(Geof Huth interviewed by Gary Barwin – The Ecstasis of the Pwoermd, Jacket2)

One word, then, is where we start, one word on a card, one shape; a letter left hanging at the end of a word, the tail of the ‘p’, upturned, the seed sounds ‘da’ or ‘ma’, magnetised. This book starts there and ends with a hanging ‘g’, before disappearing into blank, white space. Where we start, where we end, and the thorn corners we negotiate in between.