Goodwin is an English poet I've not read before; in fact, have never heard
of until now. However, the list of acknowledgements in this book seem to
I might be a rarity in this respect. The biography and the photograph of the
poet suggest he spends much of his life outdoors, and the poems in Else certainly seem to back this up.
So, as it's Christmas and my only exercise and taste of fresh air might well
be reading this book whilst sitting here at the computer with a glass of
wine, listening to Andrew Poppy, I'm pleased with it already. I feel fitter,
my lungs feel cleaner, and the world's already a better place. Not one to
take things as seen, though, I already have a hankering to explore the poems
if only to test whether or not they do what it says 'on the tin' so to speak.
The first poem I liked in the book is one called 'Waiting'. Having just read
Phil Maillard's new book(s) and being transported back to the world of Seamus
Heaney with his outdoors, nature, air thang, it's refreshing to see that
Goodwin is also working along the same lines. In this poem, 'The sky is ripe
- blue fruit, / soft to the sight./
I like to have my senses fused together - it gives me that synaesthesic
flashback of being elsewhere: another continent, another age. The past is
another country, after all. Waiting for time to pass: I can relate to that.
'I Turned' is similar in outlook: again, like in some of Maillard's poems
urban and rural merge, throw up similarities like Jungian cross-overs:
The lit city's rim is
interrupted: rural pushes
prongs of night through
Having driven through the city's northern membrane in the distant past en route to Peterborough to visit my
ex-wife's parents, I'm thinking of other, sharper prongs though.
Best out of the grimy city into rurality again (a noun MS Word dislikes but which Collins
dictionary approves of), the flat lands throw up 'Some blackbirds startled;/
sirens reply. The rim // is still in the world.
Goodwin pegs his images down to the ground, carries them across substance and
mettle, settling them in their place, content. Some of the poems begin like
novels, with a sentence that hooks the reader into a barrage of scenes. In
'An Idea of Fire, West Penwith' he starts off:
Fire is my brother's
mistress. (So he says.)
How could you not continue reading after that introduction? I defy you not to
do so. He says, a little further into the poem:
First my brother begins a
little grave: he turfs
the sward, and to contain
his flickering slut he
the brown earth-mouth
with grave-granite -
a wall of Cornish
If you're not sure what the sward
is, type it into your computer if that's where you are now. MS Word, my
fickle mistress of the Mac, doesn't mind this one.
The poem goes on to turn fire-lighting and -tending into an erotic, Wicker
Man-esque affair (I use the word carefully) and ends with the group of people
in the poem 'in love with her, & her dance...'
It's an entertaining, fulsome collection of poems which should satisfy your
(Munchausen's-by-proxy) desire for exercise, fresh air and nature during any
season, not just Christmas. Some of the poems in their subject matter and
feel remind me of Richard Murphy, the Irish poet. That returning to water, to
stone, to mimic substance.
The blurb suggests he's still 'learning to write poetry'. I have to suggest
that he might have completed this stage of his studies, and I look forward to
seeing where his on-the-job Continuing Professional Development takes him in
the near future.
© John Gimblett