Tag Archives: Peter Hughes poems

Peter Hughes’ Soft Rush

Soft Rush 
 
 
Peter Hughes is a poet, painter and the founding editor of Oystercatcher Press. He was born in Oxford in 1956, based in Italy for many years and now lives on the Norfolk coast. He is the author of over a dozen books of poetry which include Nistanimera, The Sardine Tree, The Summer of Agios Dimitrios, Behoven and The Pistol Tree Poems. Nathan Thompson has described the latter as “flickering, intense, innovative and utterly mesmerising”.
 
Peter’s Selected Poems, drawing on work from over 30 years, will by published by Shearsman in April. This coincides with the publication, by the same press, of ‘An intuition of the particular’: Some essays on the poetry of Peter Hughes, which is edited by Ian Brinton. 2013 also sees the publication, by Reality Street, of Allotment Architecture.
 
More information about Peter’s poetry and his press, Oystercatcher, can be found at his website.
 
 
 
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Soft Rush (The Red Ceilings Press, 2013) consists of 30 versions of Petrarch’s sonnets, numbers 67 to 96. It forms part of  an ongoing series in which Peter Hughes is creating ‘translations’ (in the broadest sense of the word) of all Petrarch’s sonnets. John Hall has written of Hughes’ work:
 
“Read it, in the expectation of any number of lyrical pleasures, for the ear, for the play of line against continuous movement, for its celebration of remembered pleasures, for its good will and for its wit. By this last, I mean a mind in evidence in the poems that can constantly surprise itself in the turns of speech, that can dance in the syllables and still have world and experience in its sights.”
 
Tony Fraser, on the Shearsman website, refers to Peter Hughes as “one of the UK’s most interesting and unclassifiable poets.”
 
 
 
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3 / 69
 
Erano i capei d’oro a l’aura sparsi
 
 
a deft breeze slightly lifted surprising
qualities of fair hair woven with light
from her eyes extensive swathes of elsewhere
via memory into now where she is not
 
to be forgotten is the fate of all
living creatures hint at the angelic
harmonising language equals silence
echoes in dark chambers of our hearts
 
& if I say she moved like Bill Evans played
you’ll hear the subtlest of accompaniments
which compliment the voices of the world
 
where weird late sun slants downwards through storm clouds
out over a desolate valley road
we’ll walk unaccompanied tomorrow
 
 
 
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6 / 72
  
Più volte Amor m’avea già detto: Scrivi
 
 
it is often love that sings the pen is
greater than the sane or diplomatic
in the middle of the night this neon
clamour plays & drives heaven’s dark heart wild
 
to wake up on the street in gentle rain
without a world in your care is the fate
of those who dive from the cliff into love
where we landed & paddle in morning
 
life’s too short to be a conservative
& art too deep in the merely current
we ride on the bows of the bright & free
 
who has redelivered us to language
& redelivered language to our hearts
well write out your own list & let me know
 
 
 
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11 / 77
 
Orso, al vostro destrier si pò ben porre
 
 
I know I could have been a contender
billowing proudly in the field of dreams
my little pennant waving in the breeze
past all the sulky guards in silky tights
 
someone always comes & cuts the guy-ropes
makes off with the poles & we’re blown away
flapping up & over the hedgerows at dusk
discarded wrappers of our destinies
 
& we look back from the borders of night
out on the cold edge of the atmosphere
to green & distant fields of long ago
 
our emblem a small yellow rectangle
of damp & famished turf embellished with
colonies of red & wiry bloodworms
 
 
 
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14 / 80
 
Lasso, ben so che dolorose prede
 
 
I think you’ll find the world will let us go
calmly with whatever grace we leave it
& it’s given that each of us will fall
through personal doors into no autumn
 
I think you’ll find the world will let us go
treading with care as in a dream of say
this taut prelude & fugue in A minor
BWV 889 which still
 
escapes from the litter of time & leaves
a garden on the other side of death
while we live on this other side of death
 
I think you’ll find the world will let us go
our structures sifted back into the seed
beds of our time & love & timelessness
 
 
 
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17 / 83
 
L’aspecta vertù, che ‘n voi fioriva
 
 
rather than knock up another statue
to be ruined by pigeons & spray-paint
as well as acid rain & student pranks
that might leave you brandishing a dildo
 
you’d be better off encouraging me
to write about how wonderful you are
how you’re the perfect Lord of Rimini
to be lauded through all eternity
 
like Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood
1973 (for long thought lost)
winner of the Grandma’s Attic award
 
at the Eerie Horror Film Festival
& another illustration of how
no-one escapes from the tunnel of love
 
 
 
 
from Soft Rush (The Red Ceilings Press, 2013).
 
Order Soft Rush.
 
Visit Peter’s website.
 
 
 
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Peter Hughes’ Regulation Cascade

© Image by Beryl Riley

 
 
About Peter Hughes
 
 
I was born in Oxford in 1956. My mother was born in the Claddach, Galway—an impoverished Catholic ghetto without electricity, running water or sewers, situated outside the city. My father’s people came from Redhill, in Surrey. I went to local comprehensive schools and, for a while, to Sunday school at the convent. For several months it was my ambition to become the big nun who sang ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain’ in The Sound of Music. I had a couple of years doing a range of disparate jobs (milkman, stagehand, hiring out boats, gardening, landscaping, playing guitar in a bar, building, house renovation) and travelling in Europe—especially around Alpine regions—before going to Cheltenham Art College for a year.

I spent a year in the Isles of Scilly—reading, growing daffs and spuds and shooting rabbits with a Czech shotgun. I did a degree in English, from 1978 to 1981, at what was then the Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology. It was in that period that I came across the poets who have influenced me most. These included Americans such as Ashbery, Tom Waits and O’Hara; contemporary European poets, and writers closer to home: David Chaloner, Andrew Crozier, Roy Fisher, John James, Barry MacSweeney, Doug Oliver, Peter Riley and John Welch. And countless more, of course. I particularly liked Pasolini and his description of himself as a Catholic Marxist.

After doing an M.Litt. in Modern Poetry at Stirling, I moved to Italy in the autumn of 1983. I lived and worked there until 1991, mainly in Rome. For me it is still full of more sacred sites than are listed in the guide books, including every stop on the underground.

John Welch published my first poems as The Interior Designer’s Late Morning in 1983. His Many Press also did Bar Magenta (1986): half of the poems were mine; half were by Simon Marsh (who has been based in Milan for over 20 years now). Peter Riley brought out my Odes on St. Cecilia’s Day as one of his Poetical Histories in 1990. Then the Many Press published The Metro Poems in 1992—one poem for each of the stations of the Rome metro. Rod Mengham did two Equipage booklets in 1995: Psyche in the Gargano and Paul Klee’s Diary. Andy Brown published Keith Tippet Plays Tonight as a Maquette chapbook in 1999. Salt did Blueroads: Selected Poems in 2003. There were two chapbooks in 2006: Minor Yours, from Oystercatcher Press, and Sound Signals Advising of Presence from infernal methods.

I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in some memorable readings over the years: with David Chaloner, Helen MacDonald and Roger Langley at the Cambridge Conferences of Contemporary Poetry; with bass player Simon Fell at SubVoicive; with guitarist Ron McElroy at the Diorama Gallery; with John Welch, Simon Marsh, Nigel Wheale and Peter Riley on several occasions, in various locations.

Music, painting and writing have been equally important to me and I tried for years to sustain an active involvement in all those fields, as well as earning a living by teaching. The crunch eventually came in spring 2006: I decided to stuff my paints and instruments in the loft and focus on the writing.

The results have included The Pistol Tree Poems (a collaboration with Simon Marsh which is ongoing and unfolding on the Great Works website); Berlioz (serialised on Intercapillary Space); Italia (published by Liminal Pleasures); The Sardine Tree (a life of Miró); From the Green Hill (based on the work of veteran jazz trumpeter Tomasz Stanko); and the Shearsman book, Nistanimera.

I live on the Norfolk coast, with my wife Lynn, in a coastguard cottage which is creeping ever closer to the cliff edge. The views are increasingly breathtaking.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
“Petrarch wrote over three hundred sonnets & the following twenty poems are English versions of what have become known, in my head, as The Second Batch. This group consists of his sonnets 27 – 46.”
 
 
 
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1
 
Apollo, s’ancor vive il bel desio
 
 
in meteoric lines that slit the sky
wrote notes in dark fecundity
looming under Cassiopeia
I invoke the idea of Apollo

I invoke the idea of a poem as
perpetual enactment of pursuit
of passion of flight forever turning
into your damp cavern & formation

as living light changes this appearance
surfaces through you-tube & saliva
mouthing inclusive preliminaries

we are joining ground into night once again
via the grace of imagined movements
through air & all is increasingly clear
 
 
 
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5

Io temo sí de’ begli occhi l’assalto
 
 
well I’m sorry I’ve been out of touch
with you & me & most forms of the social
for what is it now time escapes me &
on I jog while ducking my own thoughts

like a dyspraxic boxer on acid
or Hercules chugging through the under
growth clawing the shirt of madness from his back
we all want to wipe the world’s hard-drive clean

at times & they’re the ones which drive us
to distraction & death & the end of the line
it’s her eyes that I can’t come to terms with

their stirring stellar nurseries do me in
ways & means I can’t elucidate this
overdue message to you & heavens
 
 
 
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6

S’amore o morte non dà qualque stroppio
 
 
if love or death don’t fuck it up
by making me a mumbling imbecile
another gormless poetry muppet
or just a corpse chilling down the Co-op

I’ll polish off this amazing sequence
which will be classy but bang up to date
& could find acclaim as far away as
Norwich or the rougher parts of Cambridge

but you need to let me have my books back
I can’t get on without the old masters
Italian English & American

I don’t need all the academic cack
but I need my Dantes & O’Haras
my James both Rileys & Ted Berrigan
 
 
 
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9

Il figliuol di Latona avea già nove
 
 
she’s out of circulation for a week
& alas the cosmos goes cold turkey
all the fauna & flora & people
are helping the gods & small particles

look in & behind the hedges & clouds
for even the ghost of a hope of a glimpse
of where she’d parked her numinous aura
but the windows & mirrors stay empty

we all twitch & itch with desperation
as insects scuttle round the insides
of our skulls & prospects for the weekend

biochemical regulation cascade
in the absence of platonic tablets
will the sky ever open again
 
 
 
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14

Se mai foco per foco non si spense
 
 
try putting out fire with gasoline
or turning water-cannon on a flood
fucking in support of virginity
shooting troops to protest against the war

gluttony cannot be cured with cheesecake
or alcoholism with Guinness
reality will not prevent dreaming
a glimpse of the facts will not cure love

we have so much in common I love you
or we don’t therefore opposites attract
I can’t have it both ways & so I do

both feet pressed hard to the floor
handbrake on & a roaring in my ears
the shuddering shouting this will not end well
 
 
 
 
from Regulation Cascade (Oystercatcher Press, 2012).

Order Regulation Cascade.

Read an interview with Peter by Aaron Game.

Visit Peter’s Shearsman Books author page.

Visit Peter’s website.
 
 
 
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