Monday, 14 February 2011

The Floating Man

According to Ben Wilkinson, the best poems in Katharine Towers' the floating man are the ones about music. I wouldn't disagree, but I'm not sure I entirely agree.

I loved the vibration of piano and violin strings that resonate through this collection (recommended to me via FB - oh the sometime usefulness of the place - by Polly Atkin, thanks P) and the sense of light fingers at work.

But the poems that really drew me in were the archaeological ones: 'Amber' ('so frail a thought/ to hold against the slipshod years'); 'First Word' - of the digging up of a woman's body in Ethiopia; 'Found' - of stones 'we've wintered in the earth'; 'The Floating Man' - another unearthed body. I love that view of continual life, the profound belief in our heritage. In this book it's a world heritage, a historical interconnectiveness between us that's tremendously exciting.

These dug-up people are the main characters in the book. There are others, a 'you' and a 'we' here and there, but the life is in these ancients. A little like the vitality John Crace describes in Being Dead. A little like the buzziness of stillness - that monkey mind we all possess. There is, it seems, no escape from this pulse, this energy that surrounds us - wherever you are. Katharine Towers says she livs in the middle of nowhere. Her nowhere is everywhere, a continuous everwhere. She might be low in tone, but she's sparking with static.

What I also admire about the poems is just how subtle they are. A subtlety I can't even dream of. I am a tram-crash, multiple-house-selling, malfunctioning-glasses kind of dreamer. And as such the same kind of poet. A huge part of writng is accepting what you write. There is only a limited control you (or rather I) have over it. Sure I can work on improving, developing and stretching myself, but I only get to play the cards in the deck.

Which is why it's so good to be introduced to poets at the opposite on the of the spectrum to yourself (on many levels, I might say in this case). I don't want to write like Katharine Towers - a good job since I can't. But she has reminded me of my quieter aspirations. The joy of a quiet unpacking - like another Picador poet, John Glenday. I wonder what they were like as children at Christmas.

1 comment:

Jean Atkin said...

Enjoyed this post, and like you, hugely enjoyed Katherine Towers' collection. I like the ones about birds (Coast, and The Dread). Know what you mean about the subtlety, and delighted to imagine poets as children at Christmas...