Friday, 20 December 2019

John Ash: Selected Poems

Following on from last week's post about the death of John Ash, I've been reading through his Selected Poems, from Carcanet. It's consistently excellent, but my favourite poems there are generally from his 1991 collection, The Burnt Pages. He's great at creating an air of disquiet from seemingly vague and disparate details (something I seem to remember from the poem Visigothic, that I mentioned in that previous post), and history and the present day are in constant conversation with each other.

A particular favourite is Smoke, which starts:

"It was late in the year
and forests were burning a long way off
the day the smoke arrived, almost unperceived"

before ending with the wonderful:

"But don't vanish, don't take the path to the river.
It is cold there and lonely,
and the sky is a burnt page. Stay –

you and you others. If we are not to become
a dispersed people of smoke
the monument that is us must be built soon."

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