Steve Xerri, who has been a contributor to The Poetry Shed and was Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year 2017, has had his début pamphlet Mutter/Land published by Oystercatcher Press, with poems that touch on a wide range of subjects from the sound of songbirds to the UK’s place within the cultural matrix of Europe.
Whether describing the epiphany of a lived moment or the deep time of archaeology, the work focuses largely on an urban environment but remains keenly aware of the incursions of the natural world through and over which cities are built.
II : Nocturne
Alone at the window as streetlamps
prickle through failing daylight,
I listen as the blackbird
unfurls his fluttering solo
into the cathedral acoustic
of this high-skied evening.
His stay will be short, between egg
and ditch, between the last bird
and the next – made to such
resemblant perfection that for all
our complexity we can’t discern
a new arrival taking up the song.
Unbidden, there comes an image
of the heart as a fruit rotting
in the bone tree of a thorax –
and I grasp at last in my mind’s core
something of Rilke’s notion of beauty
as the thin end of terror’s wedge.
Often embodying a clear-eyed apprehension of mortality and its ephemeral beauties, this is poetry which aims to find music in visiting a graveyard, listening out in a city garden, dealing with a hangover or, as here, peering over the shoulder of an archaeologist.
“I suspect that there are many people all over the land writing poetry in a serious version of standard English like this, though I also get the feeling that Steve Xerri is exceptional.” (Peter Riley, The Fortnightly Review)
“The political element here is implied but definite, a rejection of the idea that small worlds are necessarily narrow. … It is [the] turning of the English poetic tradition on the idea of Englishness as it now exists that is the major achievement of Xerri’s style in these poems. It’s an achievement to be admired.” (Billy Mills, Elliptical Movements)Copies are available from Oystercatcher Press [http://www.oystercatcherpress.com/product-category/2020/ ].