Some aspects of HappenStance are patient drudgery.
That’s the checking and checking and checking that everything has been done, and finding it hasn’t, and checking again. And getting details in the website and details on the back cover and details to Nielsen and contracts to poets and details on flyers and copyright copies to libraries. Pamphlets in packets and stamps on the envelopes. Parcels to post office. More toner for printer, more paper for printing, more poems to process, more process to pickle. Orders from website, orders through letter box. Weighing the packets, keeping accounts, doing correspondence through letter and email and writing the blog. What a slog.
But actually, it isn’t. This week I’ve been typesetting first drafts of the three new pamphlets. This is a magical process, and a joy. And when you speak to the poets themselves, live and in person, it is an overwhelming privilege and pleasure to be involved in this magical thing we make out of language, this poetry thing. Also it is fun.
Here is a foretaste, a little of each. Richie McCaffery’s pamphlet is called Spinning Plates and here is the second part of ‘Ash’:
.....There is as much ash
.....in a smoked tab as there is
.....in a cremated finger.
.....The finger in question
.....was nicotine stained
.....and prone to point and jab.
.....God had a good long drag
.....on that one, then stubbed
.....it out in a rented ossuary.
That one is terse indeed. In other places he is lyrical, headstrong, windswept. Richie is a great man for words: loves them, soaks them up, collects them in his head like beautiful marbles—and then—watch them roll!
Theresa Muñoz writes simply. Great white spaces open out around her words and phrases, and she crosses continents effortlessly. Born in Canada to parents who hailed from two different countries, her mental location permanently traverses other homes, other countries. Here’s a bit from ‘Glasgow, December’:
.....Something to do with the change
.....in season, something about the early dark
.....and watching people stroll
.....up the flood-lit walk
.....takes me to that morning
.....at home, warm waking
.....in a white-frame house
.....with creaky doors and high windows
.....far from here, far from the roar
.....of buses braking hard in turn
.....and police sirens going off helplessly
.....in back lanes and the hum
.....of cheery rough voices
.....in the crowd
And there’s Niall Campbell (pronounced like kneel, not the river Nile), who was born on the Hebridean Island of Uist. Niall’s poems are richly sensuous. In Grez, in France, it “smells impossibly of rain: and “the bowed sky is heavy / with the deep-song of that purple colour”. In ‘Thirst’, the tap water is “almost glacial, wintered, sweetened / by the clear honey of its coldness”. And human senses pick up something not quite of this earth. Here is a bit from ‘On Eriskay’ (also a Hebridean island):
.....What a way to be seen out: confused
.....among the pearlwort and the fallow.
.....Her beach songs, like the recalled taste
.....of bucket milk, inched from her tongue.
.....Dusk grew behind the house. I watched
.....her drink the moon from a moon-filled trough.
That’s what I’ve been doing this week — drinking the moon from a moon-filled trough. Amazing.