Monday, August 17, 2020

Street Light Amber print edition now available

I'm delighted to report that the print edition of my new collection Street Light Amber is now available. Given the current fluid circumstances surrounding Covid and the ever-changing guidance, I have decided to not launch the collection. This is a great disappointment and nothing compares to the excitement of a launch night. I do hope, though, that you might consider buying a copy. All a writer wants, above all else, is for their work to reach an audience. The rest is just a bonus.




After an absence of three years, the narrator's lover returns. The two slowly begin the tentative process of regaining trust against the backdrop of the city streets of their past. Street Light Amber is a chamber piece, a study in obsession and the metaphysical state of disorientation it leaves in its wake, haunted at its core by love lost and the hope that it might yet be restored.  

 

*

Street Light Amber can be ordered from The Book Depository (with free worldwide delivery), Amazon UK and Waterstones. The Kindle edition of the book can also be found at Amazon.



I am very proud of the work in this narrative collection and I really hope some of you may be tempted to buy the collection and if you do you have my heartfelt gratitude.


For now, I'm just so pleased to have the print edition now available. My thanks to my publisher Ward Wood for making it happen during these difficult times.


 


Sunday, April 19, 2020

David Butler 'launches' Street Light Amber (Kindle)



The Imaginary Bookshop


Welcome to my blog for the ‘launch’ of my fourth poetry collection Street Light Amber. Obviously, I would’ve loved to have done this is a personal setting but given the nature of the times – which puts everything else in perspective, of course – I have had to improvise to make some small happening for the birthing of the Kindle edition of this collection (a print copy not being viable right now, again due to our present circumstance). I asked the poet David Butler if he might be willing to introduce the book and I’m delighted that he accepted that invitation.

David is a very talented man. He is an accomplished novelist and playwright and has been known to take to the footlights on occasion. He is also a multi-linguist and has translated the selected poems of Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. Above all else though, I love his poetry which manages to achieve the high-wire act of being both highly wrought and virtuoso, while managing to remain immediate and felt. He has published two full collections, Via Crucis in 2011 and All the Barbaric Glass in 2017, which I had the great pleasure and honour to launch in the Irish Writers' Centre. Truly, both these collections reveal a deeply committed and extraordinary talent.

Naturally, I am thrilled that David returned the compliment in agreeing to launch this book for me. It was initially assumed that the launch would take the form of a bookshop event, but the very difficult events we are living through have made creating a print edition impossible, for now at least, as my publisher’s printer and distributor are closed during this period and understandably so.

However, I’m delighted that we can publish the book as a Kindle edition (links below) and while publishing a book online like this will never replicate the excitement of a launch night, I’m so happy to be able to mark this occasion in some small way. David has been a soldier and written up his launch notes at short notice and I sincerely thank him for that. I will say a little more after them, for now, I want to sincerely thank him and express my appreciation for the hard work and lucidity he brought to bear on them. So here is what he has to say:


David Butler


Dating back certainly as far as his 2011 debut collection, In the Library of Lost Objects, Noel Duffy has a long-standing interest in the past – how we shape it as much as how it shapes us; how memories are lost or retrieved; how individual moments may be ‘snatched from the passionate transitory’, in Patrick Kavanagh’s memorable phrase. After two intervening collections that drew more heavily on his scientific background and interests, Duffy’s fourth collection, Street Light Amber, marks a return to this fertile territory.

The collection is framed by an evocative, identically repeated poem whose protagonist might be taken as an objective correlative for the poetic persona – a solitary figure working in the Post Office’s Department of Dead Letters who nightly undertakes his duty ‘to piece together the clues / and runes of misspelt addresses, the half-remembered / names, the scrawling handwriting,’ while, of the figure himself, ‘everything in his life is late or lost’. Like the unnamed nocturnal worker, the poet of Street Light Amber has left somewhere behind him ‘the outline of a woman’s body, a question mark / against the sheets.’

What differentiates the poet from the night-worker is that the clues and runes he must sort through and decipher relate to fragments of his own past, as memorably captured in the poem ‘Triage’. Here, the poet discharges the contents of pockets and wallet onto the kitchen table, then examines ‘the debris of a life like some hidden message, / caution to the man who seeks redemption / in the triage of lost things laid out before him.’ Among these items (note the aptness of the enjambment) is: ‘a passport booth snapshot photo of you / and me’. Indeed it is noteworthy that the majority of the poems, (I count 21 out of 33), take the form of an apostrophe to this lost love, fragments of a shared past addressed directly to ‘you’, or incorporating ‘we’. Only in ‘Snapshot’ has this directly addressed ‘you’ finally become a ‘she’, perhaps suggesting some sort of distance has finally been achieved.

Photography is a repeated trope by which the poet addresses the collection’s overriding concern with time and memory. ‘Darkroom Notes’ describes with beautiful precision the image of an old hotel ‘emerging in the red gloom of the darkroom, / the filigree of the ironwork window boxes painted over / in the double-exposure of memory’s flashbulb / and the rust of time passing.’ ‘Night Walking’ is an account of the poet’s Kinsella-like peregrinations through the sleeping city carrying a camera with which to capture ‘life stilled and recycled’; while ‘Girl in Window’ suggests how both colour and motion are ‘frozen to a moment in the monochrome film.’ Is there a parallel between a photo’s relationship to a living moment and a poem’s? (c.f. Wordsworth’s origin of poetry as emotion recollected in tranquillity). The poem ‘The Last Day of Summer’ would seem to suggest as much, beginning: ‘Life must stop for an instant / before it continues, the moment / lived a second time in the room of memory, / a ghost image in the mind.’

Noel Duffy has a talent for capturing images with photographic precision. There is ‘the smoke fluttering away / with the delicacy of silk turning / in a beam of light,’ (‘The Last Day of Summer); ‘the vaulting glass of the Victorian palm house, / the slam of humid heat that meets us as we enter,’ (‘The Botanical Gardens’); while in ‘Touch’, within a glass of mint tea, the poet describes ‘the sun brought down and contained in the liquid.’ But what if the memories, the repeated encounters with ghost images, are painful and unwanted? The unbidden past appears to haunt the poet in ‘Reflection in Darkness’ in which a sideward glance catches ‘the shadow / of my face in the mirror, the sockets sunk, the skull /and bone-house that traps and cradles the mind / in its sleeping library of half-forgotten scenes.’ These aren’t necessarily the most emotionally charged memories, for as the collection’s title poem warns, ‘the most casual things are what / ambush the mind.’ If you are looking for a manifesto for the effectiveness of art, you might do worse than take this last idea to heart.


*


Photo: Paul Malone


I’m so pleased to receive David’s astute and sharply keen observations on my work. He really is one of the finest poet writing today in Ireland and I’m so honoured to have him mark the occasion of the publication of this book with such generous and perceptive remarks. He has my profound thanks and I, for one, greatly look forward to his next collection, which I understand is in the pipeline, though won’t be out in the world for a while yet. It will, no doubt, be worth the wait.

I just thought I would lead on from here by making some small remarks on Street Light Amber. The collection could also be considered as a cycle of narrative love poems albeit ones that operate rather more like a photo collage or mood-piece (as David alluded to) than an explicitly straightforward story. Given this, I really recommend you don’t just dip and skip around it. It is best served in chronology. Also, it is a short collection (though no easier to write for that) so you could read it in a single sitting, but then hopefully a second time and earn double your money’s worth from it. The poems chart and attempt to rebuild a relationship after a break of several years. Rather like Euridice returned unexpectedly from the underworld the two lovers try to give things another go against the red-brick houses, canals and Georgian houses of an unnamed city. Perhaps, in a reversal to that famous myth, the book asks the question is it love itself that will return us to the light of the cedar grove or destined to descend again to the shadowlands of that dark kingdom below it. 

I sincerely hope you enjoy these poems and I would be so pleased if you might be willing to buy the Kindle edition of collection and see what you make of it. I’m very proud of this work and I can say, despite its relatively short length, that was a collection that was very hard-won by.

So here are four poems from the collection to try to whet the appetite!





Touch

Noticed in the stray moment, your hand
resting by the glass of mint tea on the table,
the sun brought down and contained in the liquid,
the green of its leaves reflected on your fingers.
Nothing then to disturb the composition
as my eye discovers again the contour of your touch,
its invisible look leaving no mark on your skin
as your hand moves and you reach for the glass,
raise it to your mouth, drink again.



The Botanical Gardens

You lean down close to the blossom, inhale deeply;
the stem straight, the perfect contours of the stamen,
the tight, precise folds of containing petals. There is
a sadness in the opulent grace of such things whose
season is passing. The August sunshine suddenly
darkens, the cloud thickening to rain. I take your hand
as we run to take cover, passing beneath the creepers
that climb the arching ironwork trellis of the entrance
to the rose garden. You pull tight your yellow overcoat
and we hurriedly make our way towards the shelter
of the vaulting glass of the Victorian palm house,
the slam of humid heat that meets us as we enter,
the intense odour of sweat reminding us of ourselves.
You shake away the rain and laugh as an old couple
walk slowly past, arm in arm, carrying each other along,
like the century flower that blooms only once in its lifetime,
but endures so many seasons to continue so.




The Last Day of Summer

Life must stop for an instant
before it continues, the moment
lived a second time in the room of memory,
a ghost image in the mind.
The sunlight shifts in the curtain lace,
your face framed by the window 
as you raise your cigarette to your mouth,
then exhale, the smoke fluttering away
with the delicacy of silk turning
in a beam of light, the ash straining
backwards by the weight of its own gravity,
then falling down onto your dress
without you noticing.




Lunation

The cycle is complete. I look down at you, the silver
cross on your neck rising and falling as you sleep,
the blood moon’s crimson in the curtainless window
tangled in the autumn detail of bare branches.
A dog barks as if sensing the sky’s disturbance
and my own. I leave you there to my lingering mistake,
sneak quietly down the dimly lit landing
to the staircase and the hallway that leads to the kitchen,
the whiskey that waits in the cupboard,
falling again by trapdoors in every choice I make,
the promises I made to you but could not keep.








I just wish to end with a few thank yous and try not to make it sound it like an Oscar speech (you can find that in the acknowledgements in the book itself!). This collection went through many variations over several years and I want to sincerely thank Beth Phillips for always being available to discuss and critique it and to act as a sounding board and guide as I proceeded with it. Thanks also to James W. Wood for his keen interest and advice throughout and to Shauna Gilligan for her astute suggestion at a key juncture. I’d like to make a special thank you to my editor at Ward Wood Adele Ward. We have been working together for almost ten years over five books now and I’m always grateful to her for the loyalty and support, and above all the belief she has shown in my work throughout. Finally, my gratitude to Mike Wood for preparing this Kindle edition for publication and for all the other good work he does at the press.

On that note I will end. I hope you will like this collection and that it might pass a few hours in these difficult times and transport you from it for an hour or two. Unfortunately, there is no wine to be served at this ‘paperless’ launch. I wish we could have done this in person but I promise to buy you all one when the day comes!  





It just leaves me to say that I hope, if you buy this collection, it will reward the investment. The Kindle edition is available from today for £4.99 at Amazon in the UK.

I thank you all for coming along to this 'virtual' launch and I hope you will all keep safe and well in the coming times.





Saturday, October 5, 2019

I Swallowed Earth for This - Moe-Repstad (2012)



I came across a project called Uncommon Deities which was performed as part of the Punkt Festival in Kristiansand, Norway, which has taken place for a number of years now and is curated by Jan Bang and Erik Honore, musical legends both in the field of organic electronica.

In 2012, the festival featured the launch of this musical/text collaboration, with a grouping of poems about the nature of God - some serious, some playful - by acclaimed Norwegian poet Paul Helge-Haugen, but ending on this coda piece written by Nils-Christian Moe-Repstad.  The entire work is sublime and there is a beautifully designed book to accompany it. Guest narration on these poems is from David Sylvian.

So without further ado, here's the piece, '...with amber and rust / boned from evolution / you are. I am / a lecture on fossils...'









Text: Moe-Repstad

Composition: Bang / Honore

Narration: Sylvian

Additional musical contributions: Sidrel Endresen / Arve Henriksen / David Sylvian












Friday, May 24, 2019

Short Notes on the Life of Bees

It was 'International Bee Day' on Wednesday and I meant to post a poem on the topic, given how preoccupied my first collection In the Library of Lost Objects was with these delightful creatures. One poem I wrote that didn't make it into that collection in the end, is the following series of small reflections on nature's invaluable pollinators. So, a little after the fact here is my poem to them. May they continue to thrive, though we know they are under threat more so than ever before...




            Short Notes on the Life of Bees


            I
            Deaf from birth:
             the sound they make,
            a trembling in the air
            that only they can feel.

II

            The red folds of the poppy,
            the blue-black colour of Gentian
            in their fields.

III

            Pollen-basket on their legs:
            the browns, ochres, reds and greens,
            an inventory
of where they’ve been.

IV
             
            Tail-wagging:
            they speak by dancing,
            like microbes
            on the tip of a needle.

V

            They wear their armour
            on their skin,
            the way we sometimes do.

VI
              
            A bead of rain
            can bring them
tumbling from the sky
and down into our world.

VII

            They only see us when we move.
            Be still. They will pass.


Monday, March 25, 2019

Station (Radio Short)




AMBIENCE: WE HEAR THE SOUND OF VENTILATION, OF MACHINES
HUMMING IN THE BACKGROUND.


WOMAN:                  It looks the same.

MAN:                         Yes, the same.

WOMAN:                  The same as
(a beat)
before.

MAN:                         Yes, the same.


A LONG PAUSE.


WOMAN:                  Will anyone think of us?

MAN:                         No. I don’t think they will think of us. We will just
watch them from here.

WOMAN:                  Watch them and see nothing.

MAN:                         Yes, see nothing. But the sky.

WOMAN:                  And the sea.

MAN:                         But no people.

WOMAN:                  No people.


A PAUSE.


WOMAN:                  But when they look up, will someone not think of us?

MAN:                         No one will look up.

WOMAN (matter-of-factly):  Someone will think of us.

MAN:                         No one who can help.

WOMAN:                  We’re beyond help but –

MAN:                         What else matters now?

WOMAN:                  For someone to look up and –

MAN:                         Feel pity? No. There is no pity left. Too much used up
already.

WOMAN:                  Not pity. I didn’t mean pity. (A beat) What about: with
sorrow?

MAN:                         There is no sorrow left either. It is used up.
 
WOMAN:                  There is always sorrow. It is infinite.

MAN:                         If you think so.

WOMAN:                  Like space.

MAN:                         Perhaps.


A PAUSE.


WOMAN:                  Despite everything, there is love also. Someone will
look up and feel –

MAN:                         Perhaps for you. Not for me.

WOMAN:                  But they will look up –

MAN:                         And see just another point of light in the sky.

WOMAN:                  A point of light that looks back at them.

MAN (resigned):        No one looks up now.

WOMAN:                  Somewhere, in a field of ruined corn or in a boat that sails the ocean, someone will light a cigarette maybe, and look up.

MAN:                         But no one who cares.

WOMAN:                  For that moment maybe, they will care. They will look
up and remember that we are here.

MAN:                         I doubt it. With everything that’s happened who would
remember us circling above.

WOMAN:                  Another point of light in the sky.

MAN:                         Yes.
(A beat)
Another point of light above the ruined world.


A PAUSE


WOMAN:                  When I was a child my mother took me in her arms and lifted me up. We were standing by the cherry blossom tree in the garden. Beside the pond where gold-fish swam, and water-lilies…

MAN:                         Was this where you grew up? Your home?

WOMAN:                  Yes, my home. And she lifted me in her arms and pointed to
the sky. She showed me the belt of Orion and told me he was a great warrior who lived in the sky. And the Pleiades. She called them the seven sisters, lost up there forever, wandering among the stars hand-in-hand, trying to find a way home.

MAN:                         Yes, the stars.

WOMAN:                  I looked up and told my mother I wanted to live there. She laughed and said nobody lived there except the gods. That all we could do was look up with awe.

MAN:                         Then maybe; not now.


A PAUSE


WOMAN:                  I would do anything for the sound of a voice.

MAN:                         Am I not a voice?

WOMAN:                  Yes, but…

MAN:                         You grow tired of me. I understand.

WOMAN:                  Forgive me. Not any voice. But my mother’s voice.

MAN:                         She is dead, your mother?

WOMAN:                  Yes. But does it matter what we long for? Whether it is
from the living or the dead?

MAN:                         I suppose it doesn’t matter. There is only silence now. If
we were to scream out no one would hear us.

WOMAN:                  Why would you scream out?

MAN:                         I said if.

WOMAN:                  Yes. If. But who would you want to hear it?

MAN:                         I don’t know.


A BEAT


WOMAN (quietly):    I would hear it.


WE HEAR THE SOUND OF VENTILATION, OF MACHINES HUMMING AND WHIRRING IN THE BACKGROUND FOR A LONG TIME.



WOMAN:                  Look, the sun rises again.

MAN:                         I am weary of these sudden dawns and sunsets; these
succession of days and nights. I want…

WOMAN:                  Tell me what you want?

MAN:                         What’s the point?

WOMAN:                  Telling me.

MAN:                         Okay. I want… I want to sit by a pool on a beautiful
summer morning with a cold drink. A rum and Coke. To know that the sun will shine all day as it’s supposed to. All day, as I drink my rum and Coke. And when I’ve finished drinking as evening comes, maybe I will jump into the pool – from the diving board mind, not from the poolside. And when I jump, I will feel a light breeze on my body as I fall through the air, then hit the water with a shock of cold on my skin.

WOMAN:                  This is what you want?

MAN:                         Yes. That’s all. For the day to last all day. Not like these
sudden dawns and sunsets. That if I shouted someone
would hear me.

WOMAN:                  I would hear you.


A PAUSE.


WOMAN (hopeful):  Maybe they will come for us.

MAN:                         They will not come for us.

WOMAN:                  Maybe they will.


WE HEAR THE SOUND OF VENTILATION, OF MACHINES HUMMING IN THE BACKGROUND FOR A LONG TIME. THEN:


MAN:                         It looks the same.

WOMAN:                  Yes, the same.

MAN:                         The same as
(a beat)
before.

WOMAN:                  Yes, the same.



FADE AMBIENCE SLOWLY TO SILENCE.










Saturday, March 9, 2019

Interview with Shauna Gilligan, autumn 2013

I have decided to repost this interview on the publication of my collection On Light & Carbon with the novelist Shauna Gilligan from autumn 2013. Shauna has reconstructed her website since then so the link to this very worthwhile conversation is no longer available. Shauna is an author of great courage and curiosity and I urge you to visit her new site A Girl's Writing is Never Done. So here is our chat. I was particularly pleased to talk about the long centrepiece poem in the book 'Timepieces'. Hope you find it interesting.






  1. Noel, congratulations on your second poetry collection On Carbon & Light. This first question has two parts – tell me a little about the title and cover, they are both intriguing and, in what way do you feel your second collection links to your first, which was nominated for the Strong Award?

Well, I had the title for a poem called ‘On Light & Carbon’ for maybe ten years. I imagined it would be a kind of technical poem about photosynthesis and while it would crop up every now and then, I never managed to write it. When I started this collection in summer 2010, I finally approached it and the poem that resulted was totally different than one I envisaged, written in counterpoint and a na├»ve voice. That said, photosynthesis still made it in there. It struck me as I went on with the book and wrote quite a few science poems about light, as well as another about carbon, that this would be a good title for the whole book. In a way, the poem also poses the central question of the collection, as it moves between religious notions of the nature of life and scientific ones that sometimes seem to override those. So, it may seem like a strange title, but it suits somehow. The cover idea really came from talking to an artist friend and he had planned to do the cover image by organically imposing the equation for photosynthesis onto actual leaves. In the end, we didn’t get around to it, but when I spoke to Mike at Ward Wood about the cover, I suggested we try to do something along those lines. So the leaves in sunlight and the equation came from that discussion. I think it’s quite striking.

To answer the second part of the question, this book connects in some ways to In the Library of Lost Objects, exploring the intimate dramas of life against the backdrop of science. Here though, I’ve replaced Natural History with human history and anthropology, for the most part, also exploring the role and meaning of myth and art in all this. So there is some cross-over, but I feel the tone is less lyrical and more metaphysical. I’ve also tried to push deeper into certain scientific ideas, but hopefully in a way that I bring the reader with me – whether they know much about science or not. That was part of the challenge.




  1. What was your general approach to writing poems in the book?

In the Library of Lost Objects had taken a long time to write as I often wrote fragments of poems and would add a bit and then leave it for months and then add something more. It was a very slow process, though oddly the three longer poems were written quite quickly in a kind of sprint over three or four days, and didn’t change that much after that. So, with this collection, it struck me to try that approach and see what might come out of it. One thing I found was when an idea or mood came it would immediately seem to suggest a title, but I also quickly realized I had to write a few lines down. This acted as a kind of key and a way back into the poem. Then, often the next day, I just riffed on the idea and wrote fragments down in a notebook. At a certain point, when I felt a poem was beginning to suggest itself, I would move all this onto the computer and generally very quickly find the shape and structure for the piece. I would then try to complete a decent draft on that day. Working this fast somehow led to the poems being not over-thought and often the results took me by surprise. I discovered that once I started this process, other ideas presented themselves and I would gather momentum. So I wrote like this for, say, three months at a time and would then stand back. Over three such (intense) spells of writing over a three year period, I produced the poems in the book – and a good deal more, I should add, that just didn’t quite fit the themes that came through most strongly over that time.


  1. I am interested, in particular, in ‘Timepieces’. Tell me about the genesis of this epic?

You know, there are a lot of poems about love or death or other subjects (I’ve written about them myself, of course) but very few about friendship, which is a bit odd when you consider the importance of friends in our lives. So this piece is about a friendship my dad struck up with a labourer at Dublin Bus, then known as CIE, where he worked in the late 70s. This man, PJ, turned out to be a respected amateur antiquarian and coin collector and drew my dad into his interests and they formed a great friendship through this, going to coin fares at the weekend or PJ coming over to teach my dad Ogham, which I explore in one section. Another crucial element to the poem is my perspective. It is really an initiation into both the adult world of male friendship, as well as how it awoke in me the excitement of the imagined past. I think it’s ultimately saying something about the power of art – both in terms of my dad and PJs story and my attempt to tell it.

So, I wanted this poem to be, in a sense, a kind of intimate epic, playing the ‘everyday’ notion of friendship against seemingly grand historical backdrops, such as Viking Dublin, or Imperial Rome. I’m reminded of Patrick Kavanagh’s poem ‘Epic’, which centres on a dispute between two farmers over a land boundary and how Homer’s ghosts whispers to him “I made the Iliad from such / A local row...”. This sentiment is central to the poem and is echoed in the final lines of the Viking section where my dad and PJ had found a Viking child’s leather shoe in the waste ground where the city council were dumping the soil removed from the Wood Quay site as they dug the foundations for new civic offices:
           
                        It was to me as this frail object found, opened
                        a clearing in my mind: the prow of a longship
                        approached from the horizon with its cargo
                        of stories. I leaned down close and listened.

So the events are first real-life ones, made epic in the telling – even if the language, in this case, is not what you might expect in an ‘epic’. So it is a narrative poem, certainly, but a fractured narrative reflecting the nature of memory, both personal and collective.


  1. Tell me about the writing of ‘Timepieces’ – did it evolve as you wrote it or did the idea come to you as a whole? I’m particularly interested in the back and forth of memory, imagined and real. 

Well, this was the one poem in the collection not written in the way I describe above. For a start it’s a long piece of 300 lines, so that put it on a different footing. In a way, the approach was similar to two long poems in sections from my first collection. I tried to come at the subject matter in a non-linear way and attack it from several angles, with jumps in perspective across sections. I found the shape of the poem came quite quickly, say within three or four weeks. This poem does something similar to those earlier long pieces, creating a fractured narrative of sorts that moves backwards and forward in time – both in the historical settings and the timeframe of the friendship itself. So its jumps and shimmies about us, mixing the history and the story of the friendship.

But by attempting to create this intimacy between the local and the historical, I also tried to use a quite casual, yet intimate, tone and the nature of the poetry had to reflect that. So much of the poem is written in a relaxed conversational and invitational voice. So is that poetry or prose? Some would say the latter, but I’d argue that I’m using a – let’s call it – flat-footed line, where the rhythm isn’t strident (for the most part) and the music of the piece is quiet and muted, though certainly poetry, I would argue. The challenge of rewriting this kind of ‘casual’ line, is that it is extremely tricky to get just right and, indeed, for it not to drift into prose. So, it actually took a long time to achieve that effect, massaging the music rather than imposing it. That really was quite a challenge. The other major issue was that with such rich subject-matter, there was so much more detail I included early on but had to cut in rewriting so that the poem didn’t get weighed down with too much narrative information. It’s long, but I knew I needed to keep it moving also. So, it took time to get that balance right also.
 

  1. When you were placing ‘Timepieces’ in On Carbon & Light, why did you place it where you did and did the editorial process effect how you put the collection together.

At about the mid-way point in writing the collection I had a lot of poems and started gathering them into some kind of coherent collection, which gave writing after that point a clearer focus. ‘Timepieces’ was actually one of the last poems to be written and accounts for nearly a quarter of the entire collection. So where I placed it was important. Rather like the poem itself, the narrative of the whole book shifts around in time, though generally drifts forward. The opening section deals with my university years studying physics, a time of both intellectual and emotional excitement. So the opening thirteen or so poems explore this part of my life. Then I shift back in time with two pieces about family and then ‘Timepieces’, which takes us basically to the mid-point of the collection. As I said earlier, this collection is less lyrical than my first and more metaphysical, but I realized this poem grounds the book. It is key in that sense, so I wanted that grounding at that juncture in the collection, before moving into the second half of the book, which mostly deals with hitting forty and the questions that asks of you, both personally and philosophically. It strikes me now, that a lot of the collection deals in different types of initiatory experience – those key moments of transition, and insight, in life. So perhaps that connects much of the material.


Thanks so much, Shauna, for asking such interesting questions. It was especially nice to get to talk at length about ‘Timepieces’. I really hope you, and others will enjoy that poem and the collection as a whole when it comes out in the coming weeks.