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Sunday, June 06, 2010

An Unofficial Roy Fisher

What a pleasure to see, never mind be in Peter Robinson’s An Unofficial Roy Fisher from Shearsman, a collection of tribute poems, collected stray reviews and essays, and uncollected poems to, on and by the man himself, who turns eighty on 11 June. Among the contributing poets are August Kleinzahler, R.F. Langley, Angela Leighton, and Peter Didsbury, who contributes ‘A Closing Prospect’, which waxes suburban-eschatological:

I think I could become quite passionate about hedgerows.
The thought seems to function
as an acceptance of things as they are,
which is incomprehensible
(and perhaps irrevocable) (...).

Richard Price considers Fisher’s alphabet-inspired collaboration with artist Ronald King, The Half-Year Letters, Peter Makin comes enjoyably to grief trying to provide map co-ordinates for where exactly Fisher stands in the literary landscape (‘I would like to think that Fisher’s position stands on mysterious demarcations that are so low-contrast as to be almost imperceptible’), his colleague Sue Stanford from the Birmingham Temporary Day College of Education supplies the information that his other colleagues back then (60s) included teachers called Attracta McCrudden, Concepta O’Shaughnessy and Avril Shufflebottom, and Ralph Pite writes on Fisher and water. And then there are the uncollected poems. Despite the presence of an updated bibliography by Derek Slade, there are no hints as to these items’ provenance or dates, and I’m guessing there is no crossover between them and the work about to be published by Bloodaxe in his new collection Standard Midland, but one poem I’ve now read and reread since getting the book yesterday is ‘Division of Labour’, which has been astonishing the brickwork here and then some:

I saw the dustmen drink the light
And remain dry;
I saw the grey wagon of dessication,
While the day raced in rivulets all about it,
Crawling along the gutter like a blind dog (...)

With a slight return thereof in the poem’s last three lines:

I saw the dustmen drinking light
And the grey wagon of dessication
crawl in the gutter like a blind dog.


I hope my prose contributions go some way to explaining my enormous debt to Fisher, and the whole gamut of possibilities I recognised in his work, and failed to recognise in so much of the rest of my reading, at the time. The poem I contribute to the book certainly comes, if not directly, then by a very self-conscious commodius vicus of recirculation, from the Fisher of City, A Furnace, The Cut Pages, and more, much more. Happy birthday, Mr Fisher.

1 comment:

Derek Slade said...

Hello, David. Like you, I'm delighted to be a contributor to An Unofficial Roy Fisher. It's a fine book, and I hope Roy is pleased with it. The reason that the uncollected poems don't feature in the updated bibliography is that most (not all, I admit) were listed & their provenance given in the bibliography in The Thing About Roy Fisher. Though it would have been useful if a way could have been found to incorporate this information in Unofficial. All best, Derek.