JOHN WAKEMAN: A SEA FAMILY
Civic Trust House
50 Popes Quay
ISBN 1 9053740 1 1
email: Bradshaw Books
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This page last updated: 13th October 2008.
|JOHN WAKEMAN: A SEA FAMILY|
Several times in the course of his life, Ted Hughes told the story of a scary dream he had at Cambridge. A creature with the body of a man and the head of a fox and the smell of burnt flesh walked into his room, laid a bleeding hand on the essay he was writing, and said, "Stop this — you are destroying us." With a laudable confidence in his own instinct for oneirology, Hughes took this as a sign that he was meant to drop out of English Lit and study Archaeology and Anthropology instead.
Luckily, the vulpine vision had appeared just in the nick of time and Hughes didn't lose his poetic mojo. He proved this, the critics assure us, with THE THOUGHT FOX:
with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox It enters the dark hole of the head. The window is starless still; the clock ticks, The page is printed.Hughes' THOUGHT FOX is about the poem that writes itself, the one with designs on the author. The penultimate poem in John Wakeman's new collection, A SEA FAMILY, sees Hughes' story of the fox dream combined through seeming coincidence with another bleeding hand, the sighting of two playing foxes. Wakeman's poem is less sure
what these things mean about people and beasts and a poet and time and the patterns of chance, or design.Appearing at the end of Wakeman's collection, THOUGHT FOXES sends the mind bounding back through the poems that have gone before, with the realisation that so many of them have been meditations on chance and design. A games motif pops up again and again. LANYON QUOIT conflates the landmark with the lawn sport, using its own word games. The stone roof is a 'fluke' — a simple description of its shape, but also a chance event unlikely to happen again. In HUSBAND AND WIFE AS TWO PEBBLES, the couple of the title are cast by chance on the same beach, only to be used in throwing games and for building sandcastles, and in PASSING THE PARCEL, one children's party game lasts a lifetime.
Set against chance are the poems of design. MR SHEEHAN is a sinister Frankenstein story; CREATION contains directions to grow your own. And if myth is the means to make events appear fated, A SEA FAMILY is swimming in it. Wakeman creates new myths and retells the old ones. I skipped a breath at the revelation that it was Eurydice's doing all along:
how her soft feet faltered, Her soft hands shut his singing mouth and turned him to her in the growing light.A SEA FAMILY is beautiful, wide-ranging and accomplished. It is also beautifully illustrated, although it is a great shame that — presumably through a printing error — one poem's conclusion is obliterated by its illustration. As co-founder of The Rialto and founder of The Shop, Wakeman has made a long and deep contribution to letters on these islands. He continues to do so.
|reviewer: Ailbhe Darcy.|