Some sort of nightmare memory


Selections from the Life & Death of Peter Stubbs
, Jesse Glass
(43pp, £9.00, The Knives Forks and Spoons Press)


A beautiful book, combining 22 pages of Glass' stunning artwork and then his wonderful modernist text (extracts, from his longer 1995 Birch Brook Press publication).

First, what a cover. One of the best I've ever seen. A wicker man, primitive-type painting, with crimson flames rising on trapped and grotesque figures, in haunting green, khaki and blue. A powerful (indeed terrifying) sense of excoriation and extinction.

Inside, I loved how the art came first, with sixteen stunning pictures, some incorporating poetic extracts. Very Blake-like: intense, yet (apparently) simple.

Glass has this wonderful sense of the dramatic, of how reading (particularly something like this) needs to be an event. I've previously reviewed his BlazeVox book of plays Lost Poet
(here) and that energising effect was very apparent.

The Peter Stubbe extracts are exhilarating. Like all good modernist poems, they use and address the reader, but also reflect profoundly on creation and its inherent daring.

So my interest didn't fade, despite an indifference to their theological and eschatological subject matter. In that sense, the introductory illustrations do their job. It's visionary work, but the dynamism of the writing makes it unnecessary to even care about the references. Which is exactly how I approach Eliot, Pound or David Jones.

So I read the poems quickly, not worrying about meaning at all, already sufficiently located and able to just enjoy the power - in fact the thunder - of their language. Which, of course, allows for subsequent re-reading, without the material seeming exhausted:

   & The smell of his burning,
   Was it enough to make one stop
   Attending such events?

   Hardly…
  
   You,
   Are you finished, poet?

                          Never.
     (from 'Did He Confess')

And what a closing set of lines! Some sort of nightmare memory of Kafka's In the Penal Colony
- with the last four lines (my emphasis) reading like an epitaph, for our largely exhausted and uninspiring poetry scene, wallowing in its limited ambition:

   live on in death
   your crime to suffer
   a syllabled skin
   the engraving pen
   Found in your executioner's
   hand
   tips like a porpoise
   sonic sensing
               the form of a crime
   greater than all
               literature
               now closed
               on itself
               in gigantic sleep.

    (from 'Chorus of Angels')

            © Paul Sutton 2014.