Motorbikes and Nature


Claiming Kindred, D.M. Black (81pp, Arc)


There's a heightened 'Romantic' register here, so high that it takes me back to Tinturn Abbey or on the coach South with Shelley and his mates on the Grand Tour. There is also something of Charles Lamb in this first poem.

     I walk today in Kew Gardens, in sunlight the colour of honey
     Which flows from the cold autumnal blue of the heavens...

Mr Black likes his colour - no pun intended: there are blues and tans and golds and plum and green and holly and green and golds and plum and green and holly and greens. Colour is applied with a plastic knife that bends over the horizon and becomes  courtly love for the eyes. There is an almost a sexual love of nature: Page 11

     And the flowers are bright to lure the pollinators,
     And without remainder...
     These marvellous things that shock the heart and head can
     account for..

It's that word 'pollinators' that troubles me. My mind is thrust into images of bees doing all sort of unseemly things in the holly bushes.

The perversion - if you like continues over the page:

     I have come out to smell the hyacinths which again in this North
     London Garden
     Have performed a wonderful feat of chemistry and hauled that
     delectable perfume
     Out of the blackish confection of clay and pot sheds which feebly
     responds when I name in flower-bed.
     And so wet was the Spring that I clipped the grass with shears
     to prevent  the mower sliding in the mud.

It's almost a poet in the dirty undergarment drawer of nature sniffing around in total arousal. Have I taken that too far. Hope so.

The register continues up the scale till its almost a noise. Page 16:

     Cupid's bow, black devil, pre-Christian
     motor-bike rider coming at us over the roof tops
     always in a crowd, scattering
     to the four dimensions, exultant, shouting -

I quite like the idea of Cupid on a motor-bike coming at us over the roof tops. Here we have to cast aside the existential and concentrate on the imagination. For me this is a Wallace and Grommet moment of sublime art. All sorts of images fester in the darkness above those chimney pots. Who else might we find up there on their Suzukis and Harleys roaring about in the wilderness?     Wonderful.

The poet is inspired not only by motorbikes but by nature; and this book indulges in the poetry of place which - would not look out of place - sorry - published in the Romantic era as I've said: and as any lover of nature must do, there must be a poem about a bumble bee: page 17. Yet this is no ordinary bumble bee - no it doesn't drive a motor-bike. This bumble bee is dying I think.

     He or she was crawling torpidly against the doorstep...
     And languished like a child with flu...

I like the word 'torpidly' although I don't know what it means: send all replies to Stride round about making time period for a prompt reply.

Then there is something I haven't seen for a long time. The poet has orchestrated the use of of of rhyme:

     When I was a kid, and less than a kid, and still in the womb of my mother
     Millions of men all over the earth began to murder each other
     Poles and Danes and people in planes and people on all the seas
     Gypsies and blind and gaily inclined and Jews and Japanese...
         (page 20)

And further on in the book there is more rhyme:

     Being is not a predicate, he said.
     I'm understated. Maybe Homer's dead
     Who fought and shoved to lap the steaming blood
     Knew something Kant never quite understood.
         (page 27)


I'm musing 'poetry is good when round words turned are to make them fit. Eh!'

Apart from Rhyme there are various challenging issues tackled in this work. There are poems to 'The Mistletoe' chestnut trees, double basses and the like.

I liked the poem about Birmingham on page 37:

      In the centre of Birmingham there is a square in which there is no traffic...
     And the inhabitants of Birmingham walk up and down, or stand very still
     pretending to be statues of policemen..

Lines like these sum up Birmingham I feel. They are a mirror of what you get in Birmingham. Pure poetry.

And the line of the book must be:

     ... The inhabitants of Birmingham look rather prosperous without being at all
     ostentatious...

Craft.

And I can't go without mentioning the poets poem to Pippin - his dog that died. This poem really will rip the heart out of the British public as it has all the ingredients that publishers and public want today:

     Alert small bitch, half- terrier
     Half-whippet, with the strength and speed
     Bestowed by each parental breed-
     You reach the close of your career. //

     And terrified by fireworks: we
     Deployed our cleverest arts to guess
     What traumas you could not express
     Brought you, homeless, to Battersea.


Cupid is on his motor-bike in the above poem and the engine revs have just been opened up.

Anyone any rope?


      James McLaughlin 2011