Skip to main content

Review - "Into the Interior" by Kelvin Corcoran and Alan Halsey

Alan Baker

“Into the Interior” by Kelvin Corcoran and Alan Halsey, pub. Shearsman. 21pp.

Over the years Alan Halsey has developed a distinctive and striking body of work as a visual artist. At the same time, Halsey and Kelvin Corcoran have worked on a long-running series of collaborations which has resulted in a some very interesting poetic-artistic works. This latest production shows the fruits of their long partnership, displaying an easy rapport between the poets. The spur for the poetry is a series of line drawings by Halsey to which he himself appends a rhyming quatrain; Corcoran then responds to this with two quatrains on the facing page. It's a simple but effective formula. As far as Kelvin Corcoran is concerned, this type of collaboration plays to his strength, which is his lyric facility; freed from the narrative and didactic aspects his poetry sometimes displays (both of which, I should add, can produce powerful results when combined with his lyricism) his poetry sings. Here's an example, starting with Halsey's artwork and quatrain:

to which Corcoran responds:

      Alan I've been out to Parc Malou
      a cold morning of it along the track
      through the devastated trees after the storm
      nothing but dogs and corvids in possession.

     Kyiv is burning and I sit here dumb
     looking into the interior unmapped;
     to see your mind at play is everything
     in the toytown tangle of fearful horizon.

There is a sense of easy (and writerly) companionship between the two poets and a real affection, but as always in Corcoran's poetry, language is at the forefront: 'toytown tangle' is a striking phrase which is also a neat description of the mess humans are making of their world, with 'tangle' giving a faint impression of the tangled weaponry and buildings of Ukraine. But on the whole, in this sequence, the drawings are imaginative, the writing is playful and the language has at times a real beauty:

      Pilgrim, pilgrim stretching the lines of speculation,
      the slip of moon above the dark wood dreams,
      the trees sway as one, the oak, the beech, the ash;

The title of the sequence implies a journey of some sort, and throughout these pieces there are references to such, indeed to a pilgrimage of sorts, and the quest of Browning's Childe Harold is explicitly invoked. The journey may be a metaphor for searching for a way out of the crisis, both political and environmental, that we find ourselves in. A key line is:

            ...the way through is just a feature of composition

Which makes sense, as this is a dialogue between two poets trying to find a language that might do justice to our contemporary situation. In the end, the search is for solidarity and companionship:

             Alan … to see your mind at play is everything.

All of which might give the impression of solemnity or seriousness, whereas in fact this little sequence is light and airy, a playful improvisation.




Copyright © Alan Baker, 2022









Popular posts from this blog

Review - High and Lonesome: Three Books: Crozier, Prynne, James

Andrew Duncan High and Lonesome : Three Books: John James, Striking the Pavilion of Zero, J.H. Prynne, High Pink on Chrome ; Andrew Crozier, High Zero (Shearsman, 2021; edited Ian Brinton)  The reason why these three books from 1975-6 and 1978 are being republished together is straightforward. Crozier had named a work High Zero , and when I interviewed him in 2003 he conceded that it referred to High Pink and Striking the Pavilion of Zero , and that he had used lines from those two works as keys to develop the High Zero poems from. Publication together allows one to read across and recover a part of the composition process. High Zero was published in 1978, later than the two poems it is a response to. The founding moment is The English Intelligencer , in which all three of these poets took part. This was an attempt to recapitulate the development of Charles Olson, up to about 1950; he was seen as both the continuator of Pound and as having thought profoundly about geography. T

Essay - Whatever Happened to the Poetry Manifesto?

MARTIN STANNARD WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE POETRY MANIFESTO? Recently I tried writing an essay that had the working title 'Why the Meaning of a Poem is the Last Thing You Should Think About'. I felt like I had something to say. It began like this: I can't help but remember what my old angling tutor used to say: “Be careful when you open a can of worms." Of course, he didn’t say any such thing, and I never had an angling tutor, but writers, and perhaps especially poets, can say anything and get away with it, because . . . Actually, I'm not sure why. I'm not even sure if it's true. If it is, it shouldn’t be. And I'm not sure about that, either. I think it's probably best if we accept a certain degree of uncertainty and subjectivity and other words that suggest everything is open to argument and get on with this. Just because something is open to argument doesn't mean it's wrong. Later (about 3000 words later) I decided I was on to a loser.

Review - "Bright Angel Proof" by Nick Power

Charlie Baylis Bright Angel Proof, Nick Power (£10, erbacce press) In the spring of 2016 a writer from the small Northwestern town of Hoylake, Nick Power, took a trip flying around America on budget airlines, soaking in all its big ticket tourist attractions and gaudy glories. The trip, and Power’s poems about the trip, come together to form Bright Angel Proof , a collection which evokes beat generation myths of a mystical America, but behind the lines Power knows that the beat generation era is done and perhaps was never really there to begin with. Power is too late to join the ranks of Ginsburg, Kerouac et al but at least he suggests that he might have something to say, which is more than most contemporary poets. Power attracts attention as a kind of modern Burt Lancaster, an adventurer of compelling (North) West Coast vibes and easy going company who, like Lana Del Rey, has ‘feathers in his hair...c hurning out novels like Beat poetry on Amphetamines.’ Power’s companion on the