Issue 12: Kelvin Corcoran
From A Short History of Song Set to Music and Abandoned
Thomas Hardy steamed up on a motorbike,
English poetry tucked in his knapsack;
he dismounted and stopped writing the novel,
fool poets thought he rode an iron horse.
He’s not here for the conference on the death of lyric,
he’s chasing a mortal song and a sweet fiddle tune
out in the field for the licence deracination grants;
look away, it’s unbearable, and if you don’t, unbearable.
Hardy could have strangled most poets with one hand;
he left behind narrative in the service of the rural poor
and stacked boxes of shaped stones, as a mason would,
crafted from injustice and the resistant heart of stone.
Housman and Graham
I was walking the granite peninsular
beside the Housman Graham star lit fences.
They sped by in a motor car on a jaunt,
heads inclined, dipped in dial light, eyes bright.
There was only one thing they could talk about;
how to construct the bare line without fuss,
A gleaming gantry to scale the darkness,
to see a compact landscape close around their feet.
The old car shot by, Graham retuning the radio,
half-heard song like a river running filled the lane.
All The Poets
All the poets were in one room talking and not talking,
I was asleep trying to join one note of bird song to another;
it was impossible, it was that sort of thinking made obvious
and the blank days were far apart, months apart and gaping.
–Well, that’s just fine, the over voice said to the assembled,
some people like to go out dancing, others like us we gotta work;
fine, it reminds me of the one literature and decades of expansion:
nothing makes poetry happen, and all the poets said me me me.
I heard the reshuffling of the names of nations on hidden cards,
it was murderous, the markets going ding dong on the border
and the embossed names gouging trends across mineral lands;
this part isn’t complex, just a form of repetition to dull the wits.
Nothing makes poetry happen, not manifesto, drones or surrender;
but for all the faithful ploughing of the hexameter field,
for all that learning made to serve a clotted tongue,
poetry’s already there, beating the bounds of our rushing days.
When I First Got Geraldine
It was a reading in Sheffield
swooping and running on
compassion to lift up a child
a witness against unkindness
against the pompous and powerful
and the other works of men.
And Geraldine was singing
the small parts of words
to get under their skin
before the scheme took hold
and I got it – just, bloody hell
you what, all the rubbish
wiped off the words for kindness.
Another time she was on a ferry
with Kylie and Kylie had the hiccoughs
and was a murderer or murderee,
the poor little thing, and the M.V. Kindness
takes us all to the other side
with Geraldine and Alan, Kylie and Nick;
across the River Tagus in the Spring.
The Kylie Minogue Nick Cave duet Where The Wild Roses Grow is on the cd Murder Ballads but we were singing all together Happy Birthday To You late into the steely night for the dancing trees in the garden and the taxis coming and going.
I think the way to read poetry
Bars of light fell on the page
and delight returned,
out of those black shapes life poured
the spars of meaning, struts and arcs.
Screw up your brows and peer at the words
In the ordinary commerce of our speech
syntax breathing its first immaculate,
somewhere from the back of my head
I don't know what I'm saying, it's allowed.
In front of your face one by one
Here now this book of Peter's and his reading,
little book in this various world
make your way with truths unfurled,
with night-time voice of house and quiet.
Believe everything you hear for as long as you can
I think the poetry landed me here,
a line drawn out to the origin of song
placed an invisible lute in my hands,
knotted my fingers in the sounding strings.
And the music – play any song sung by Grigore Leșe, sung quietly at night from a neighbour's house.
Kelvin Corcoran’s work came to prominence with his first book Robin Hood in the Dark Ages in 1985. Nine subsequent collections have been enthusiastically received and his work has been anthologised in the UK and USA. The sequence Helen Mania was made a Poetry Book Society choice. His New and Selected Poems is now available from Shearsman Books along with two major collections Backward Turning Sea (2008) and Hotel Shadow (2010). For The Greek Spring, a selection of Kelvin Corcoran’s poetry about Greece was published in 2013. The Writing Occurs As Song: A Kelvin Corcoran Reader, edited by Andy Brown was published in 2014.