Monday 27 February 2023

Delicious tensions, Clare Best's End of Season/Fine di stagione

Clare Best’s new project, End of Season/Fine di stagione (Frogmore Press, 2022), is a delicious portrayal of the tensions that run through life, yoking them to poetry so as to burrow down to the core of feelings.

To start with, as indicated by the title itself, there are linguistic tensions, each poem in English placed on the opposite page to its corresponding piece in Italian (written by Franca Mancinelli and John Taylor). Rather than translations, these feel like two independent texts that establish dialogues: views of Italy in English, then also in Italian but filtered through an English perspective. Languages, cultures and societies rub up against each other and generate further insight into how we view the world around us.

And then another inherent semantic tension exists in that title. The end of a season hints at the end of a cycle, wondering and worrying about what might lie beyond, the past providing a counterpoint to the present as in the following extract from

If I forget these short days
and cool nights, the lack
of screaming swifts,
I can pretend today is summer
and we are here together…

End of Season/Fine di stagione, Clare Best provides an acute reminder that the acts of writing and reading reconcile us with ourselves, Throughout these poems, she explores this process, leading up to On the Mulattiera, which delicately brings the past and the present back together…

…There was a time I couldn’t have left you.
I’m there, I’m here. The road’s collapsed.

Where have I been? My path – October
wood-smoke, pine cones fallen on rubble.

You let me go and then I let you go.
I never loved you well enough till now.

Fractured sky opens into rain.
What can it mean to be here, alone…?

And one final implicit tension in
End of Season/Fine di stagione is between the written page and song, as six of these poems have been set to music by Amy Crankshaw (you can watch the first performance for yourself on YouTube here). It’s well worth comparing the versions, as they cast a fresh perspective on each other.

End of Season/Fine di stagione
shows us (yet again!) Clare Best’s unquenchable thirst for collaborations with other genres, all tied to her drive to explore experience via hard-won artistic creativity, taking us along for the ride, allowing us to reflect too on the tensions within our own lives. This is the sort of writing that earns new readers for poetry, bringing it into settings and contexts where it is too often absent. Clare Best never lives in a bubble. She’s forever reaching out to people and that’s a terrific virtue.

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