In writing recently about Rupert Loydell’s latest poetry collection White Noise, published by zimZalla, I focused on the palpable pleasure of the book as product, this in itself such a significant part of the whole.
I had thought of mentioning then, but do so now, other books/presses that delight, and I will in a moment feature one in particular, David H.W. Grubb’s Box collection, published by Like This Press in 2012.
Mentioning LTP allows me to reference it again as well as my review of Ian Seed’s Italian Lessons and the significance of its production by this wonderful press here. I have also written about the chapbook collections of The Red Ceilings Press here which have their distinctive qualities in, obviously, the poetry selected but importantly the size of production that shapes this. Another that springs to mind as a publisher of books I frequent is Knives Forks and Spoons Press with its signature covers and the alternative [for want of better word] work it tends to celebrate by publishing, some references here. I must also highlight the work of Michael Cain as I have done here: his productions special, and of those I have, genuine treasures.
The David H.W. Grubb collection is wonderful, the production in a large cardboard box an unusual ruse, and the three chapbooks inside again palpably pleasing, their ‘rough’ torn covers of thin card and the delicate torn insert page [a shiny gold] adding both the tactile and the aesthetical – if you like, as I do.
Re-reading the poems this morning I was reminded of their excellence. The first collection, in the order of my box, is Night Letters. The first poem opens with such suggestiveness,
It is said that we each make a place for the dead
in our heads so that we might sometimes visit them
with songs and barley and corners of gardens
This is a lovely poem, elegiac and fantasist, tapping into known, shared experience and that only imaginable [but then made as known] in the poetry of Grubb’s visualising, as with this also,
and I see my father stopping to note the sadness of snowdrops
and mother hiding her burnt currant buns in the pampas-grass
and Sam Frost speaking to rain as he lays another section of the hedge
In the second poem from this collection, Always the Blue Clown, that sense of loss, again widely ‘known’, is poignantly crystallised by the way Grubb describes,
and what the man was saying to his daughter
in that stained glass moment when he released her,
and now, and now he has returned to the same field
and the silence rattles and every person he has ever
respected or adored is present and waiting for him
to pull the earth over him like a blanket of stars
and who hasn’t also been there and wished they could have described it so in order to understand the feelings more?
The second collection Images of War reflects on experiences Grubb gained, as I have read in a brief Shearsman Press bio., ‘working in places of extreme poverty and civil conflict’ and ‘conflict zones such as Bosnia, Rwanda and Kosovo, where he worked delivering humanitarian aid’. An early poem Rumours of War finds and conveys the paradox of haunting beauty in describing the horror of dying,
He may have heard the screams and weeping,
he may have seen the men falling backwards
as if they had been slapped by an ocean;
he may have heard the all day rain, not falling
from the sky so much as inside the heads of
soldiers as they lay in their long drowning.
This next poem, which I present in its entirety, adds another deep layer of knowing in its presentation of the then and now, the former poetically heightened by its language and metaphor; the latter made bathetically dark by its literalness,
The third chapbook is – I will use the expression again – a beautifully haunting sequence Hairy Kate.
I’m not sure Grubb’s collection is still available, but you can see what is and enquire further here.