I went to a book launch last night. Anne Connolly’s book ‘Downside Up’ is indeed very fab, lots of poems about Ireland and her family, but not cosy or nostalgic, just thoughtful and beautiful.
However, I also met Christine de Luca. And behaved with some enthusiasm.
Christine de Luca is one of my favourite poets at the moment. She is from Shetland, and writes in Shetlandic as well as English, and this gives her poems a texture and multi-layered resonances with Old Norse and with Scandinavian poetry. She says it’s hard to do, though as Shetlandic poetry has to appeal to Shetlanders (otherwise what’s the point?) and then you find yourself writing to a niche market and restricting your options. She doesn’t give into this, though. The poems in Parallel Worlds are not backward looking, not rural idylls or ballads. They bring new words, new perspectives to poems that could have been written wherever poetry is a serious art form. She writes in English too, and then you see how a different language shapes your thought differently.
I think there’s no point in being a poet if you can’t take Orpheus’ stand and say
‘All the words will be available to me’. I admit I was thinking about the big fancy grandiloquent words that I was sometimes made to feel weren’t for the likes of me, Liverpool Judy that I was. Especially when the trend for vernacular poetry came in. But it cuts both ways. All the words means ALL. Dialect, academic, technical, street words, rude words, foreign, antique, abstract, ugly words and neologisms.
I admit it takes some skill make them pull together coherently. But some people can, and I aspire to it.