seven: Gillian Allnutt, Lintel

First of all, thanks to Matthew for help with the re-design. (I particularly love the effect we created on the header image.)
Second, apologies for the long delay in posting last week’s collection. I was away for a long weekend, and didn’t manage to make the time earlier on this week. I have to say I felt rather anxious to have lost my Sunday evening routine.
So, Lintel. This was another gift, from my aunt Margaret, who was a schoolfriend of Gillian Allnutt‘s. And I might as well be blunt about what I thought of it: it was stunning. I found the whole collection had a sparse lyricism and an emotional landscape that was totally compelling.
It felt similar to Lynne Wycherley’s North Flight in the characters, both real and imagined, that populate the pieces, and also in its being grouped into sections. And a similar sort of toughness, although to a greater degree I think. Like Carol Ann Duffy, Allnutt packs a huge amount into a very few, seemingly spare words. Here are the last two lines of ‘Sarah’s Laughter’, one of my favourite poems in the collection:

It’s hidden, the hurt, like a hard little bird in the tent
of her heart. She’s tended it.

That, to me, is poetry. So absolutely economical and so devastatingly resonant with meaning; where the effect is so well wrought that you can’t seem to explain why it works so well.
Speaking of Carol Ann Duffy, last week’s reading totally changed my mind about her stature as a poet. It’s not like I was really questioning it in my very first post; I just didn’t quite get the tone of a fair bit of Rapture. It was a combination of reading this collection last week – perhaps because Allnutt’s work seemed to me to chime with Duffy’s – and also going back to Rapture to (predictably enough) find a poem to send as a valentine, that made me reassess. Opening the collection again I somehow saw just how good it was. Perhaps just the practice of reading poetry tunes you to it, in the way that the more you listen to music the better your ear for it becomes? I don’t know. But Rapture really is brilliant; I can see that now.
Lots of favourites in this collection, although it almost seems a shame to pluck out just a few, as really I loved the way they all worked together. But I’ll nonetheless choose as my highlights ‘Anchorage’, ‘Awkward things (1)’ and ‘Awkward things (2)’, ‘Arvo Part in concert, Durham Cathedral, November 1998’, ‘Meditation’, ‘Held to’ and ‘Things that are early’. ‘The Road Home’ is destined to become a very favourite poem, I think – one to learn by heart –

It is the road to God
that matters now, the ragged road, the wood.

And if you will, drop pebbles here and there
like Hansel, Gretel, right where

they’ll shine
in the wilful light of the moon.

You won’t be going back to the hut
where father, mother plot

the cul de sac of the world
in a field

that’s permanently full
of people

looking for a festival
of literature, a fairy tale,

a feathered
nest of brothers, sisters. Would

that first world, bared now to the word
God, wade

with you, through wood, into the weald and weather
of the stars?

1 Response to “seven: Gillian Allnutt, <i>Lintel</i>”

  1. 1 Paul Farley, The Ice Age « fifty-two poets Trackback on 25 March, 2008 at 9:54 pm

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