Here’s another poet known to many but not to me, an increasing discovery of non-discovery I have encountered quite often of late. Perhaps it really was the teaching and the incessant marking and the two other jobs. All that reading just to teach the curriculum. But I thought I read for pleasure too.
In researching a little about Hawkins after I read this chapbook, I didn’t recognise strongly the oft-mentioned wit and the apparent randomness of his constructing that I came across in reviews and general observations, not that there weren’t these elements in Trumpet Stuffed with Cloth.
There is much in the book about birds singing/chirping and it just so happens I read outside with the same all around me – perhaps even a rare woodpecker in the distance, or someone building something quickly with hammering but not all that loudly for whatever reason.
With titles like the opening poem the eithics of loss and then on the nature of age, and terror and heartbeat it is clear what the tone will be when reading, and I didn’t find it chirpy despite the singsong sparrows darting past my head to continue their performances in the hedges. And this early reading made a deep impression so perhaps it overrides a broader impression of the whole.
I was roused from feelings of sadness in these early evocatiosn of loss – as with that opening poem – by references to food that somehow seemed written for me, like ‘donut ringed / together, glazed over’; ‘apple crumble’; ‘jar of sweet pickle’; ‘Polish sausage’; ‘soured cream’, and during the eating of these the author writes he is listening to ‘Mozart or the Small Faces’ and I’m with the latter so stress this for I think it is in the recognition of and sharing in Hawkins’ feelings with one’s empathetic own that makes these poems so pervasive without doing so focibly, but, as I’ve already said, gently and honestly.
This is the meeting place with this collection for me – familiars with Hawkins’ personal reflections and remembrances, like the closely observed in here is the stone fallen from my heart
‘with her hair pulled back after washing
she’d witnessed the farmer sowing
her white sheets strung out, fresh air
the wind with its sharp edge, such anger
the morning dough thrown down, so needed
it is then she wipes her eyes with her forearms, dusty sleeve
it all falls into place
the wish of having wished
scrubbing on the planter’s hands
children endlessly at play in the field with friends’
(the double spacing is as in the book for many poems; others are single spaced)
I like the singular statements of each line, and the additional information that would suggest a further detail/description/qualification and yet do not go on to develop; do not need to develop. In a later poem after the storm by ralph hawkins (an interesting self-reference!) there is more of a connecting narrative line and details that surprise and tease, but these do seem to be moved beyond personal experience which is rooted in reflection rather than as a creation.
There are the more ‘witty’ poems like 24 hour traffic along the tokyo port seaside road and a ‘Maisy’ thread that is quite playful.
My thanks to Steve Spence who recommended this chapbook to me: his review of it can be read here. For more details and to buy, go here.