David Troupes, The Simple Men (Two Ravens Press) and Anne Fitzgerald, Beyond the Sea (Salmon Poetry), Reviewed by John North
The Simple Men. ‘The Simple Man […]’, a sequence interspersed throughout, forms a backbone. One does not feel it to be heaved up from the Everyman, or Wordsworth’s ballads. Do we still ‘choose incidents and situations from common life, and […] relate or describe them, throughout, as far as [is] possible in a selection of language really used by men’? (Wordsworth, ‘Preface to Lyrical Ballads’ (1800)) What are we doing now?
The first ‘Simple Man’, the second poem of the collection after the aptly-titled ‘The Quarry Jumpers’, is ‘The Simple Man in Love with the Sound of Things’:
harmony of beats
which is the sound of everything loving
and warring in unison.
‘The Simple Man’ is not simple. Alone, but written (‘We splash ourselves through pools of evening whey, | pour ourselves | to the platterbearing yarrow and loose | our hymns up the maple flue […]. | Long rivers of medicine | where a drop would be too much.’ (‘The Simple Man Dressed as Though Death’)) A conversation between worlds. I was talking to my mate, who, like Troupes, also went to UMass, on Facebook whilst reading. Massachusetts and the North of England! I sat and read it again in the pub (where I am now writing). ‘The Quarry Jumpers’ – there’s a quarry not far away. ‘Rain scrim under eastbound clouds’. (‘Morning at the Day and Night Diner’). Life and the poem – they can live and work together. But, again, what are we doing?
It is a beautiful collection. I’m watching Man Utd – Liverpool, reading ‘Guinea Fowl’, thinking of Cantona and the seagulls, wondering whether I might have become one of the ‘Men in gray coats […] wandering my old backyard, men | who never search for what I’ve hidden, | who follow their own nonsense […]’. What is the man, what is the poem, ‘the willow | our neighbor felled’, and ‘time felled our neighbor and the fowl returned | with their helmets and head-wounds’, ‘[…] taller into the ripeness | of an ending of an end– | O willow return!–and tie strings to my wrists.’ What do they make of each other?
There’s a fine sequence of five two-line poems, called ‘Pennies’:
The bait shop man, a heap of gristle.
What pinks the refinery of his eyes?
Sound and image. And ‘The Bull Moose’:
Earliest faint of dawn, lip-slip
silence of river
and like a fish opened
the sky bleeds and feathers
as three moose feed
in the slackwater by the islands,
among the bales of mist.
What a poem describes, what it is, ‘[…] up | the rain-belittled, rain-berunnelled hills, | searching through my searching for what it is | to be moose […] | each tree in the rain shaking | grandly | like a tree in the rain.’ (‘The Bastard’) Again, it’s a beautiful collection.
early, when the sun is a tray of crumbs
in the spin and wander,
till I throw myself down and there’s my urn.
(‘The Simple Man Arriving Through the Fields’)
Anne Fitzgerald’s Beyond the Sea. Here are the mind-blowing first few lines of ‘Dévotion’:
It makes sense all the same when you think of it. Born
on the feast of finding the true cross, he’d always felt
a direct line, so to speak. Since Johnny gave up the drink
he’s killed worrying them blasted rosary beads to death […]
Religion, history, the Young Man. There’s a huge amount here. In terms of subject, in terms of style. In the last few lines of this poem there is something akin to Tara Bergin’s ‘Looking at Lucy’s Painting of the Thames at Low Tide Without Lucy Present’, which I also reviewed recently for The Manchester Review; that stunning line of hers ‘they say the marine world is notoriously ‘close-knit’:
[…] Nelly Ryan’s pink
paddling pool might well be the lake in Central Park.
For miles they does come to re-enact crusades, to seek
indulgences for battles lost, […]
[…] tall flags wave colour askew as if a tapestry
lost in a watered-down detail of its own threaded myth.
Well woven, fine poems. From ‘Longing’’s ‘From the sound of things you say | he’s as hard as that stick of rock’; ‘her lip-hush kisses sail his vertebrae | like her index over the spine of an upturned | hull beached in the scent of bladderwrack’; to ‘Little Death’’s ‘The tip of your tongue teases | unknown pleasures, | releases a kind of jazz | oozing with the after taste | of movement, like little fish | licking the wild Sargasso.’
She is ‘Signalling Through Space Without Wires’ with these poems.
Though folded away in the lining of a pocket
you arrive unannounced as if a change
in weather, alter the climate of my thoughts
like a gulf stream’s warm air […].
From deep inside it comes, like a longing
to drive across the Golden Gate
uninterrupted by the thought of you unravelling
the storm we gather and weather
in the face of what we have disfigured of ourselves.
(‘Gone are the Lightships’)
Bridges between things. People, places. Poems. Perhaps that is what we are doing, what we are making.