Sunday, June 03, 2007

Colin Will, "Sushi & Chips"

I recently read Colin Will's Sushi & Chips. Here are a few good lines from the book:

seabirds sound their evening calls,
muted, sad, because we think it so.


... the tide's lapping advance,
a twice-daily fish delivery system.


Childhood's a passive thing:
memories are of happenings,
not doings.

("A Windfall")

a blue splash—
a silver fish
flies up to the branch

("More Haiku")

The first two of these struck me with how they mixed natural description with something that disrupts the description: the human interpretation of the scene in the first case, the metaphor derived from human technology in the second. Technological metaphors in nature poetry:


It's been quieter here
since the trained Tornados left
for the whirlwind of war—
until today.

The noise at first felt
rather than heard,
a road-drill in the sky, then
that flickering bass thump
got louder.

The Chinook starred
in a small blue gap,
twin rotors birling above
the fat body sycamored
from Lakenheath to Leuchars.

Special delivery, I'd guess,
something to shock the seagulls
and an old man painting his fence red.

In Ohio, where I grew up, tornadoes come in the summer. But here, the planes are signs of spring as sure as seagulls or any other natural image.

The relationship between technology and nature is also nicely highlighted by this wonderfully titled poem:


Summer shine, warm air, dry roads,
and the leathers come out.
Wintered bikes are serviced,
commuter car garaged for the weekend.

Time to zip past slow lines
of the drab, looking good,
feeling better, weightless on the crests,
forks telescoped heavy in the dips,
on the bends and bays beside Loch Lubnaig.

The line of today is endless and easy;
hands, feet, body, eyes, machine,
all one system for going forward,
for changing time into now,
mountains and water into scenery.

Twin lights are on, to be seen, to be sure,
and all other drivers are stupid, certain
to do the crazy, to miss the obvious,
to turn without signals, brake
from confusion, cross your line.

Helmet turns head into a bug’s eye,
but you remember how it sounded
scraping the road, how your elbow hit,
snapping clavicle. It won’t happen again,
not to you, not ever to you, not this sunny day.

As a vehement wearer of a helmet when bicycling, I can really relate to this poem. :-)

But Sushi & Chips also contains some more straightforward nature poetry:


I held the little bird,
palm of one hand, still,
no need to form a kist
with the other.

Eyes were shut,
beak open and,
I saw, cracked
and blood-beaded.

Wing-shaped feather dust
on the kitchen window
a visual echo
of the sudden thump.

Back arched up slightly.
I still felt fast heart beats
flutter, then the moment
everything stopped.

— Or perhaps that is not as straightforward, after all.

The book also contains some striking poems about relationships, especially "Circumstantial Evidence" and "Foundations," but I'll let you get your own copy in order to read them.


apprentice said...

Yes I like Colin's work very much indeed. His poem about his father, a watchmaker, in this collection is also beautifully observed and very affecting.

I like his sense of humour too, it has a really twinkle to it.

Andrew Shields said...

Yes, "Tick," the poem about his father the watchmaker, is also wonderful.