Of course it was the morning
up early for apprenticeship
where the radio played the harp
before the train to Glasgow.
My good mistake at first light
to sing the song I didn't know,
the boy dreamt the night before
the poem unwritten in the shipyard.
These lines are from Kelvin Corcoran's poem "Learning to Play the Harp", written about W.S.Graham and dedicated to Andrew Duncan. To "sing the song I didn't know" seems like a good way to compose poetry, to let the lyric impetus take over; not to write what the poet, and reader, already know, but to expose something new each time, which is what good poems do. Kelvin sent me "Learning to Play the Harp" printed as a single sheet of Conqueror laid paper; it's from Longbarrow Press of Swindon. In the same package was Kelvin's poem "Madeleine's Letter to Bunting" - dedicated to "my daughter and all the unabashed". It's a poem about ageing, and about the parent-child relationship:
This tree has such a colour,
is it blond cinnamon, and the etymology?
- she might sweep me up if I fall.
At your age I thought I had plan,
I did not, or it was the wrong plan;
it was not to be fifty and exhausted up a tree
Speaking the only three words I have
to the local children bemused,
and numb - Eucalyptus, if I fall, save me.
"Madeleine's Letter to Bunting" is a moving poem (if we're still allowed to say that about poetry), combining, as Corcoran's poems often do, language as lyric construction with an examination of the personal and domestic. It's printed on the same laid paper, folded and inserted into an envelope; an excellent artefact, which I'm pleased to have.
I've just found out that Longbarrow Press was founded by Andrew Hirst and Brian Lewis "with the aim of developing new writing in close collaboration with its authors. It is committed to a mode of production that places equal emphasis on the printed word and the materiality of the object; to achieve this end, each of its titles has been designed, printed and assembled by hand". For more information, contact Brian Lewis, Longbarrow Press, 6 Tenby Close, Lawn, Swindon, SN3 1LN.