There's a heightened 'Romantic' register here, so high
that it takes me back to Tinturn Abbey
or on the coach South with Shelley and his mates on the Grand Tour. There is
also something of Charles Lamb in this first poem.
I walk today
in Kew Gardens, in sunlight the colour of honey
from the cold autumnal blue of the heavens...
Mr Black likes his colour - no pun intended: there are blues and tans and
golds and plum and green and holly and green and golds and plum and green and
holly and greens. Colour is applied with a plastic knife that bends over the
horizon and becomes courtly love
for the eyes. There is an almost a sexual love of nature: Page 11
And the flowers
are bright to lure the pollinators,
marvellous things that shock the heart and head can
It's that word 'pollinators' that
troubles me. My mind is thrust into images of bees doing all sort of unseemly
things in the holly bushes.
The perversion - if you like continues over the page:
I have come out to smell the hyacinths
which again in this North
performed a wonderful feat of chemistry and hauled that
Out of the
blackish confection of clay and pot sheds which feebly
I name in flower-bed.
And so wet
was the Spring that I clipped the grass with shears
prevent the mower sliding in the
It's almost a poet in the dirty
undergarment drawer of nature sniffing around in total arousal. Have I taken
that too far. Hope so.
The register continues up the scale till its almost a noise. Page 16:
black devil, pre-Christian
coming at us over the roof tops
always in a
to the four
dimensions, exultant, shouting -
I quite like the idea of Cupid on a motor-bike coming at us over the roof
tops. Here we have to cast aside the existential and concentrate on the
imagination. For me this is a Wallace and Grommet moment of sublime art. All
sorts of images fester in the darkness above those chimney pots. Who else
might we find up there on their Suzukis and Harleys roaring about in the
The poet is inspired not only by motorbikes but by nature; and this book
indulges in the poetry of place which - would not look out of place - sorry -
published in the Romantic era as I've said: and as any lover of nature must
do, there must be a poem about a bumble bee: page 17. Yet this is no ordinary
bumble bee - no it doesn't drive a motor-bike. This bumble bee is dying I
He or she was
crawling torpidly against the doorstep...
languished like a child with flu...
I like the word 'torpidly' although I
don't know what it means: send all replies to Stride round about making time period for a prompt reply.
Then there is something I haven't seen for a long time. The poet has
orchestrated the use of of of rhyme:
When I was a
kid, and less than a kid, and still in the womb of my mother
men all over the earth began to murder each other
Danes and people in planes and people on all the seas
blind and gaily inclined and Jews and Japanese...
And further on in the book there is more rhyme:
Being is not
a predicate, he said.
understated. Maybe Homer's dead
and shoved to lap the steaming blood
something Kant never quite understood.
I'm musing 'poetry is good when round words turned are to make them fit. Eh!'
Apart from Rhyme there are various challenging issues tackled in this work.
There are poems to 'The Mistletoe' chestnut trees, double basses and the
I liked the poem about Birmingham on page 37:
centre of Birmingham there is a square in which there is no traffic...
inhabitants of Birmingham walk up and down, or stand very still
be statues of policemen..
Lines like these sum up Birmingham I feel. They are a mirror of what you get
in Birmingham. Pure poetry.
And the line of the book must be:
inhabitants of Birmingham look rather prosperous without being at all
And I can't go without mentioning the poets poem to Pippin - his dog that
died. This poem really will rip the heart out of the British public as it has
all the ingredients that publishers and public want today:
bitch, half- terrier
with the strength and speed
each parental breed-
You reach the
close of your career. //
by fireworks: we
cleverest arts to guess
you could not express
homeless, to Battersea.
Cupid is on his motor-bike in the above
poem and the engine revs have just been opened up.
Anyone any rope?
© James McLaughlin 2011