Ian Parks was one of the National Poetry Society New Poets in 1996. He was made a Hawthornden Fellow in 1991 and received a Travelling Fellowhip to the USA in 1994. His collections include A Climb Through Altered Landscapes (1998), Shell Island (2006) and The Cage (2008). His pamphlet, A Paston Letter, is just out from Rack Press. Recent poems have appeared in The Observer, The Independent on Sunday, Poetry (Chicago), The Liberal, London Magazine and Stand. He has taught creative writing at the universities of Sheffield, Oxford, Hull and Leeds and is now writing full-time.
Love Poems 1979 – 2009 is published by Flux Gallery Press.
In the Foreword, Ian writes:
“I never started out to be a love poet. In some moods, I don’t necessarily think of myself as one even now – although the existence of this collection would seem to belie it.”
“How do you write love poems that are still recognisable as such without merely repeating what has already been done much better by others? And how do you write a love poem that attempts to address wider issues?”
“The earliest poem was written in 1979 when I was twenty; the most recent in 2009 when I was fifty. Thirty years seems like a good round number. You have to draw the line somewhere. And here it is.”
Think back: remember the lighthouse
poised on the windswept head;
or rather, the approach to it –
a long road unwinding through acres
of dark pasturage and fields of gorse,
affording glimpses of its vivid beams,
distinct at first but losing their identity,
criss-crossing over miles of open sea.
This is what it’s like to be in love:
to find perspectives shifting constantly;
to always be approaching some fixed point
but never arriving at its source.
Did you get back to find them
starved of air, unopened
in the hot room where we danced?
I held you and you wore
your velvet dress: black, absorbent,
swallowing the night.
Or were they open-throated
when you came, turned to the window
where you used to sit –
self-centred, self-contained –
distilling their potential
as the moon burned fierce and red?
All night their fragrance
promised something more: a scent
too like the scent of death
suspended in the air;
the crude Byzantine crucifix
I nailed above our bed.
That night in the Chelsea Hotel
with nothing to read
but the Gideon Bible
propped in the folds
of the silken counterpane.
You were fresh from the shower,
caught in a fragrant fall
of talc. Solomon
was singing the delights
of eyes like diamonds,
teeth like pearls,
hair like a fountain –
smooth, cascading down.
Forgiveness was still possible
or so it seemed
for those who left these pages here
inside the slighty scented drawers
for somone to discover
on a future night like this:
the pulse of neon
flashing out its message
in the dark; a city
I could see from the way you were waving
from across the windswept road;
I could tell by the way you blew me a kiss
that for you it was not worth saving.
So I turned and walked away.
Not the river tipping all its weight
over the smooth, precipitous weir
or the swans – so brutal when they mate –
locking soft necks underneath the wall
but you stood at the open gate
not ready to become a ghost
but hesitating, fading fast,
turning from familiar you to unfamiliar she
with the love gone and the poems gone
and with such finality.
“The finest love poet of his generation.”
– Chiron Review
“He is a love poet in the sense that Auden was a love poet – a poet of all love’s complexities.”
– Ian Pople
“He has re-invented love poetry for a new generation.”
– Andrew Oldham