DAVID H.W. GRUBB: THE MEMORY OF ROOMS
4b Tremayne Close
UK ISBN 1 900152 74 6
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|DAVID H.W. GRUBB: THE MEMORY OF ROOMS|
David Grubb's imagination circles round a vicarage garden in Zennor, Cornwall. His father, the vicar, wanders in and out. His mother is pottering in the background. The light is clear and bright above the sea and the air filled with the sound of bells.
Wherever you go in this book, you're never far from this place. It is the touchstone. Certain words keep recurring- "garden", "lawn", "bell", "light", "God", "priest", "faiths". Grubb is nor quite a believer himself, but he is always, to use his own phrase, "god-spotting". Even when he's writing about the war in the former Yugoslavia the images from his childhood slide in and offer comfort. Villagers are burying treasures in anticipation of an enemy onslaught. And in one village they bury "even the bells". Yes, I know, I could see it coming.
Don't get me wrong. These are fine poems. It's just that after you've read a few, the beauties become predictable. The language, with its sprinkle of favourite words, holds few surprises and you begin to think that a little ugliness would be nice.
THE MEMORY OF ROOMS is a selection from 40 years worth of work. It also contains sections of previously uncollected and new poems. I don't, to be honest, see a whole lot of development between 1961 and 2001. The mindset is complete from the start. Poems accrue, further defining, without ever disturbing, that childhood vision of a world of rightness and beauty.
"Beauty". Lets close on that concept. It's a quality not much encountered or valued in modern art. I suspect I undervalue it myself (witness my snippy comments above). We find our world to be complicated, fragmented, jagged, distressing and we are suspicious of the artist who gathers up the shards and makes a harmonious mosaic of them. David Grubb is just such an artist. If he achieves beauty and does so consistently, it's not through the avoidance of difficult or disturbing subject matter. Rather it comes back to that garden in Cornwall. There, as a child, Grubb enjoyed a vision of a world essentially sinless and at one with itself. That vision — the strongest, most potent thing in his life — spreads its influence out though time and space. He is the modern equivalent of the 17th century's Vaughan and Traherne. Less sure than they were of Christian doctrine, he is equally staunch in his enjoyment of the world and insistent that, beyond appearance, everything, including warring humanity, is beautiful.
|reviewer: Tony Grist.|