Angela Topping’s I Sing of Bricks

Angela Topping is the author of three poetry collections and one children’s collection (The New Generation, Salt 2010). She has edited two books and is the co-author of several GCSE English Literature textbooks for OUP. She has written two critical books for Greenwich Exchange, with a third in the pipeline. After a career in teaching she now writes full time. Married with two adult daughters, she lives in Cheshire. 

Angela Topping’s poems are full of joy, tempered by sadness and unflinchingly honest. She writes in a range of voices, always concentrating on the human experience, sometimes through unusual routes, like bricks, shoes, a single glove. These are poems in which the senses inform the striking imagery, where love is measured in actualities, and observation is close and truthful. Her feet are firmly rooted to the earth, though her head may be full of dreams and memories. Her working class childhood combined with her subsequent immersion in Literature, and passion for writing from an early age, combine to make her work accessible as well as poetically exciting. I Sing of Bricks (Salt Publishing, 2011) is her fourth book for adults.
“Angela Topping has the knack of making the reader see things anew, of reinventing lyrical forms, and of disarming sceptics like myself with the ‘unexpected love’ which occurs throughout this carefully ordered and original work.”
– Rupert Loydell
“These are poems that come alive as they negotiate the small details that make meaning in a life, meeting the end of love and lives with compassion and feeling.”
– Deryn Rees Jones
“Angela Topping sings of bricks and cups and perfect grapes. She sings of the concrete, the power of objects, like a spell to ward off loss.”
– Helen Ivory
Rosemary Chapel
i.m. Matt Simpson
          A poet dies. Or not. Words
          He wrote resonate somewhere.
                    — Edward Lucie-Smith
There should have been a wake for you,
a night of howling, whisky-soaked farewells,
a chance to steal a lock of your white hair,
recite your tender poems about death.
Not these jumbled words in Rosemary Chapel
where death is made polite and funeral guests
are silent in stiff suits, while some of us,
your dearest ones, imprison sobs in throats.
And there’s your photograph, with teasing eyes,
always game for laughs, or some daft pun.
It can’t be right that you have gone and yet
the phone is quiet now, the emails stopped.
Your image watches over us, as if
waiting for the punch line, the reveal
when you’ll jump out and giggle ‘gotcha’. But no.
You stubbornly insist on being dead.
Now the wake begins. We have to believe
you’re never coming back, except in dreams
or in the echo of a melody you loved
and finished black words on a white page.
How to Capture a Poem
Look for one at midnight
on the dark side of a backlit angel
or in the space between a sigh
and a word. Winter trees, those
elegant ladies, dressed in diamonds
and white fur, may hide another.
Look for rhythm in the feet
of a waltzing couple one, two, three-ing
in an empty hall, or in the sound
of any heartbeat, the breath of a sleeper,
the bossy rattle of keyboards in offices,
the skittering of paper blown along.
You could find a whole line
incised into stone or scrawled on sky.
Words float on air in buses, are bandied
on street corners, overheard in pubs,
caught in the pages of books, sealed
behind tight lips, marshalled as weapons.
Supposing you can catch a poem,
it won’t tell you all it knows. Its voice
is a whisper through a wall, a streak of silk
going by, the scratch of a ghost, the creaks
of a house at night, the sound of the earth
vibrating in spring, with all its secret life.
You have to listen: the poem chooses itself,
takes shape and begins to declare what it is.
Honour the given, else it will become petulant.
When you have done your best,
you have to let it go. Season it with salt
from your body, grease it with oil from your skin.
Release it. It has nothing more to do
with you. You’re no more its owner
than you hold the wind. Never expect gratitude.
from I Sing of Bricks (Salt Publishing, 2011).
Order I Sing of Bricks.
Read Mark Burnhope’s review.
Read Afric McGlinchey ‘s review.

2 thoughts on “Angela Topping’s I Sing of Bricks

  1. odessa

    i love it! especially this:
    “Release it/ It has nothing more to do/ with you. You’re no more its owner/ than you hold the wind. Never expect gratitude.”

    so very true.

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