What Penelope Shuttle is reading


In a recent interview with Brian Lewis, Mark Goodwin says….

‘I make my poems with a close awareness of the substance of sound, but also with an awareness of space, texture, shape and pattern. So the blank paper is just as much a part of the poem as the darkness of the ink.’

In his collection Steps Mark Goodwin draws on his experience as walker and climber. There are two presiding spirits in the long poem From a St Juliot to Beyond a Beeny, a Walk in a North Cornwall – Thomas Hardy and Peter Redgrove. This is a walk I know well, from my visits to North Cornwall with Peter Redgrove. The poem travels from inland St Juliot to the coast. Along the way we encounter the affinities and interactions between the human dimension and the earth – stones, lichen, snail, viper… An integral thread in this poem is the radical interweaving within the text of passages by Thomas Hardy, as in this very brief extract –

set hundred
rime starlight set hundred

drawn from Hardy’s Lyonesse. Hardy, as is well-known, wrote a number of poems about Boscastle, Tintagel and the surrounding area.. After the death of his first wife Emma, this coastline inspired the extraordinary elegies he wrote for her. The embedding of cut-up extracts from Hardy’s work within Mark’s journey poem is radical. Mark disassembles and reassembles the Hardy, giving an epiphanic resonance to his own work and to the quoted material. Mark draws Hardy (and Redgrove) towards our present moment of reading. Another exciting, strange and compelling factor is the way Mark takes (mostly) end-words or words from the beginning of a line and sets them out as a ribboning echo down the right hand side of the page. These strips of words (set free from the coherence of the poem) take on new meanings and nuances, acting as chorus or living marginalia to the poem. Scrupulous response to landscape, adventurous ways of using the white space of the page, observational energy and tactility in the language combine to create an authentic sense of place, vital and transformative.

Penelope Shuttle


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