A beautiful book, combining 22 pages of Glass' stunning artwork and
then his wonderful modernist text (extracts, from his longer 1995 Birch Brook
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)
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
Was it enough to make one
Attending such events?
Are you finished, poet?
(from 'Did He
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
tips like a porpoise
the form of a crime
greater than all
in gigantic sleep.
(from 'Chorus of Angels')
© Paul Sutton 2014.