‘…it is about time that she was recognized as one of the finest poets writing in English today.’ – Times Literary Supplement
A LAMENT FOR THE MAKERS is a dream poem conceived three years ago while I was looking out over the golden beech trees of October, reading Arthur Burrell’s version of Langland’s Piers Plowman in the Everyman Edition of 1912. The poem also owes its existence to Thomas Sackville’s The Complaint of Henrie, Duke of Buckingham, (c. 1563) and to the selection of medieval lyrics represented in the first volume of W.H. Auden’s and Norman Holmes Person’s Poets of the English Language, published by The Viking Press (New York) in 1950. I have made this treasury of poems my life’s companion ever since my mother presented me with its five small red volumes on my graduation from high school in that same year. Behind the Medieval dream tradition in which Chaucer and Langland wrote, of course, stands the Colossus, Dante, whose Divina Commedia I read in Italian (with a crib in the Temple Classics) when an undergraduate at the University of Michigan; those old editions of Dante, too, are still in my possession.
The Lament, however, began to take its present form after a real dream. When Peter Redgrove died in the summer of 2003, The Times newspaper asked me to write an obituary, a request I had to refuse for all sorts of reasons. In a dream that night, Peter appeared and like a latter-day Virgil undertook to explain the nature of the afterlife. I cannot claim, however, that what I dreamed is what I quote him as saying in the poem. That came later, after I had re-read Redgrove’s poems and thought about them. Part II was written in the summer and early autumn of 2005, and the poets represented there were either friends, like Frances Horovitz, or poets I especially admire (Ted Hughes, Edward Thomas, Dylan Thomas, Philip Larkin), or poets I happened to find lines to fit. I do not consider that this Lament for the Makers is complete, but surely I have worked that three-line stanza – flexible as it is – hard enough. My present plan is to write further ‘movements’ in different shapes, moods and tempi, perhaps about different poets or different kinds of ‘makers’. To write any more, though, will take months and years of time, and I am not sure how much of that precious commodity I still have at my disposal. At the end of this ‘episode’ the narrator wakes from a night of troubled dreams to watch storm clouds roll away into a dawn that will, of course, lead to another night and different dreams. This seems a good place to halt, look around and listen out for whatever or whoever it is that next applies for a little space on the left bank of Lethe.
Limited edition of 200 copies.
(Clutag Press, 2006)