Saturday 4 July 2009

‘A shower, a veritable downpour’

George Szirtes reviews J. O. Morgan’s Natural Mechanical in the new issue of Poetry London. He brings in Wordsworth – The Prelude, and the 1802 preface to Lyrical Ballads (‘a selection of the real language of men in a state of vivid sensation’) – and he attends to the prosody and he discusses ‘the empty opposition’ of poetry and prose. At this point I was reminded of my wife’s impatience with some of the reviews she reads in art magazines: she ponders, throws it to me, asks ‘But does he like it?’ He does:

‘Though the language is plain, almost rugged, the verse is rhythmically supple . . . None of this is dry-as-dust prosody. It is the very life of the poem: sure-footed, complete with transitions, the eye sharp, the poetry not in the description but in the noting of brute, luminous fact. Subtle verse and a feeling for precision of detail lie at the heart of the poem’s success . . . The remarkable thing about Natural Mechanical is that it is not in the slightest bit quaint or sentimental. It is a shower, a veritable downpour, of fine particulars in a single, robust life . . . It is one vivid gathering sensation in skilfully calibrated real language. It is itself natural-mechanical.’

Yes, I do know there’s a typo on the back cover. My eye wasn’t as sharp as the poem’s. But as soon as we sell out of the present print-run we can correct it, and those who have already bought will have something whose flaw only increases its value. In the words of Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, ‘Whoever has two pairs of pants, sell one and buy this book.’

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