Tuesday 13 September 2022

A poem from Paul Ings' first pamphlet

The dishes I most enjoy are cooked by chefs who demonstrate an understanding of how flavours and textures work together, a subjective understanding, of course, that coincides with mine. From the first mouthful, I know we’re on a similar wavelength. And the same goes for poetry. Within a stanza, I know whether a poet has a certain feeling for a line, a cadence, a sentence, that I also share.

In both cases, food and poetry, there’s always a delight in making unexpected discoveries, either at a backstreet tapas bar or from a small press publisher. One such example is Paul Ings’ first pamphlet, One Week, One Span of Human Life (Alien Buddha Press, 2022). This title might give certain readers the erroneous impression that the work inside might be abstract or metaphysical. However, it simply serves to indicate the pamphlet’s structure, which follows the course of a week.

The key moment, however, was when I started on the poetry itself. By way of example, I’m delighted to have been granted permission to reproduce the following poem in its entirety, as shorter quotes wouldn’t do justice to its gradual, subtle, cumulative effects:

After an Hour of Walking Sheer Clifftops

there’s this reluctant beach has its back turned towards us;
as we peer down through bracken mesh up on high
it makes like it’s not there in its shady surround
but we’ve spied it and we’re coming down.

Our discovery has an unassuming, laid back manner
of nonchalance in its expulsion of us;
water laps yet again at our retreating toes
till we’re all backed up against the cliff before we know it

where we throw in the towel; but as we climb
and as the awkward terrain occasionally allows
we cast glances back down at what is now
a bay of frothing mashing waves contained

within its vessel; so vast and uncompromising this view
that I only happen to glance at my slapping sandaled feet
and the young adder so discreet that it merely laps
wavelets at my toes passing off amongst ferns.

Throughout this poem, an awareness of form is latent in the background, giving the initial impression that its long lines are relaxed and free, when in fact the poet has a close eye on syllables and stresses, alongside a keen awareness of the role of line endings. Moreover, Ings’ ear for natural language means that the poem wears his craft lightly, inviting us along with its speaker, never dictating, never overreaching, never lapsing into poetic preening, allowing rhyme and half-rhyme to merge into the background.

As mentioned above, Paul Ings’ work has been a lovely discovery for me. You never know what tapas you might find off the beaten track, and the same goes for poems too!

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