Ian Pople’s Saving Spaces

 
 
 
Ian Pople was born in Ipswich. He was educated at the British Council, Athens and the Universities of Aston and Manchester. His first book of poetry, The Glass Enclosure, was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. His second collection, An Occasional Lean-to, was published by Arc in 2004. Saving Spaces was published by Arc in 2011. He teaches at the University of Manchester.
 
 
 

 
 
 
“Ian Pople’s poems are shaped and tested by a crystalline sense of silence that makes his words sing out from the page like bird song. Each poem listens to itself unfold, feeling its way through its song in developments that are at once natural and astonishing. He is both an ecstatic observer of the natural world and a whole-hearted and honest participant in human relationships and the human condition. It is the way his poems move that make them so refreshing, the way they spill the reader through lines full of astonishing detail, alternating between moments of uncertainty and illumination.”
 
 
 
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“Shaking up our sense of England and England’s poetry in the twenty-first century, Pople avoids the highways (and the many byways) of his contemporaries, making his own desire path, ‘saving space’ … His poems and sequences have a chancy magic in their juxtapositions. They deal seriously with love and faith, but are opportunistic and wittily anarchic as they say: “If you have that expression/ in your mouth, I’ll use it too”.”

– John McAuliffe
 
 
 
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Berkhampstead
 
 
We quickly passed through
Berkhampstead and it was green,
all of it: houses, trees, cars,
herbaceous borders, allotments.
 
Everything except a pond
that reflected sky,
and Graham Greene’s father
pausing beside a window.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
‘ … As Dedicated Men’
 
 
This is what his face has become,
exiled from prayer and the axle
of prayer; as if many birds
had flown through the room,
 
as if droplets of milk had gathered
and gathered, then remade
the cow, as a child might insist
on only three kisses then turn
 
to insist on three kisses more.
And in that face was a husband once,
the hands of marriage moving,
proving the sands between them.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Handiwork of Light
 
 
 
1.  At Church
 
 
Some were at church, others running the towpath,
avoiding fishing poles, bait boxes with scrawling maggots.
That time of evening, the sheep still feed, the cricket’s
 
at the end of play. Across the hillside,
under heavy August cloud, cars are turning
their side lights on. Her father would have known
 
that time to move the flowers back inside the shop,
pull the shutters down, lock them in; infinite patience
for those things falling and those things waiting to fall.
 
 
 
2.  A Lofty House
 
 
Set the suitcase down between puddles; knock
on the door. The chapel leans into silence; built
by subscription, among clay pits and brick fields,
 
an altar cloth of chalk dust, a warehouse,
a conclave for pigeons neatly fallen. Rooks are flying
fiercely back to roost, blue haze over August earth.
 
The clouds are lifting, and there’s a smell of covenant.
In the cut-hay evening, in the railway carriage,
everyone is talking, becoming wheels upon the tracks.
 
 
 
3.  A View of Arnhem
 
 
The light is patterned, shaping round the fields,
or coming from the corner, an unmade sun
among boxes. On the garden side, you might

shutter off the windows for the lake is uncomfortable,
the water high, pouring and contained, there
among the formal trees, the stiff grass flattened
 
and open towards the cars and courtyard.
The hillsides move through one another
and little figures through the light and trees,
 
the river in sunlight. The sheep are walking
by the water wheel; behind the chain link
fencing, laurel, rhododendron, a tree that’s bitten
 
to the quick by lightning, where the dog looks
up at the man and the man looks down at the dog.
And there’ll be one winnowing and another
 
binding sheaves, and another sitting at lunch
because they’ll know, cramped as they are,
if someone turns or someone smiles.
 
 
 
4.  The Kiss
 
 
August is still, a carnal river cuts
the counties, standing water in unploughed fields.
In the headlights a cat chews carrion, its head
 
is working side to side, and as you spit a fingernail,
the floating memory of a kind of kiss; of how she went
for flowers in a foreign night and, dark with
 
other language, window open for nectar moths,
the pumping heat, a disco rising, her returning
with the words, ‘how like you this?’
 
 
 
5.  What the Car Park was Singing
 
 
The tennis court is sliding with the rain, moving,
taking the chain-link fence with it, away
from the pavement and the double yellow line,
 
carefully taking the tarmac and pulling its corners
slowly, away from the car park, pulling the white oblongs
of car spaces, out of kilter and towards.
 
But the word wants none of it, ‘IN’ needs to follow
the arrow along and around; the arrow with its
hazy reconfiguration that follows the man,
 
with his shadow in the rain, shining
on the tarmac, dancing with his cap slung
from his left hand, swung off under dark cloud
 
and the rain, once fallen, not yet falling on
the sliding tarmac. For he too turns between
the shifting oblongs towards, along the shining space,
 
and further away, another arrow, that points
to a white space almost unavailable, yet pushing
its way onto the car park, canting the eye towards,
 
as it approaches the only car, the graffiti car,
the car whose crazy white letters say ‘Sex’.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Owl
 
 
Stubby Venus on stubby-fingered
wind; that flapped above
the childhood park, a rail
to somersault off over gravel.
 
Firm-winged familiar that winter
of 63, the sledge so slow over
the last snow, it sent in Father –
old nicotine fingers, wheezy-cackle
 
breath – among the cat-ice
and pine needles, worn earth,
root balls, worm death; we saw him glide
into the tree silhouette, and not emerge.
 
 
 
 
from Saving Spaces (Arc Publications, 2011).
 
Order Saving Spaces.
 
Read reviews of Saving Spaces here.
 
 
 
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