Open to the Unexpected
Interland: Six Steps Underwater
Steve Dearden, Kath McKay, Ralf Andtbacka, Carita Nystrm,
Adam Strickson, Marko Hautala
(168pp, £14.95, Smith/Doorstop Books)
Six writers get together, visit each other between
Yorkshire and Ostrobothnia, Finland, decide water is to be the thing to work
at (then let this drain away a bit as an absolute task), and over a period of
years do it, responding, translating, putting together a book in both
languages - or Swedish - with a few photos.
The book shows no trace of self or group-indulgence, whatever they did to
achieve it, the result, while often personal in subject, is always
investigating, always making discoveries in life and art. And it doesn't much
matter whether you call it prose or poetry; the writers themselves appear
happily free of such a debate, while engaged in what seems to me the
intensity, the precision, the strangeness, the open-to-the-unexpected, the
risk-it of the poetic consciousness.
A fragment by Adam Strickson:
The last day
at school is tribal
and Molly and Martha and Nina and Lily and
It's not just
the abuse of uniform:
knots of tied worn just above the breasts.
abandonment of uniform for
skirts, red tights, pink sequinned shoes
And a fragment of a section by Carita Nystrm:
years ago Finn Bay still lay
waiting to transform into fertile soil.
And now we're
fighting the forest from taking over.
On summer nights I
think I see them row the shallow waters,
setting their nets
in our fields where once pike and perch
swam in rich
waters, feeding the poor village.
The Kalevala and Beowulf took a hold on the group along the way, and it is
evident how discussion, hanging out together, engagement via emails (of which
a selection is included) kept the enterprise humanly real. There's a lot to
learn here - both as a provocation to other such adventures and to notions of
what crafted writing is and why - and there is a lot to enjoy. How unusual
such co-operation is, among the world's mainly individual poets' voices. What
does a bookshop do with such a book, where put it? Display it on a table, I
hope, invite in new, collaborative readers.
© David Hart