This issue features poetry from Ireland’s Eleanor Hooker and Mark Roper, Next Generation Poet Luke Kennard and work, including in translation, from Hungarian-born British poet George Szirtes. We enjoy reading poetry because everytime we enter a poem we become somebody else. To paraphrase Edward Hirsh, poems breathe meaning into our lives and with our own knowledge horizons we breathe life into poems. As readers we have this responsibility, to mutually participate in language. George Szirtes is a poet alive in language. His intelligent verse renews and reaffirms its capacity to move us, and from his emotionally powerful search for truth, that plain tongue explaining plainness to itself in an increasingly controlled world the day I died/they made it perfectly clear/that I had not died, to the unintended repercussions of Luke Kennard’s reasons for seasons, to Mark Roper’s recollections of all the dear dead – this collection is charged with meaning and remembrance. On these pages are poems of tenderness and human understanding. Poems full of flux and possibility that prod, provoke and open up the senses. It is my pleasure to introduce them to you.
I was struck by Eleanor Hooker’s archipelago of poems with a bee motif. The poet’s bent to wheedle with words is a gift from a bee who tasted her lip in the crib. Bees in myth were prescient messengers believed to bridge worlds. And from each poet’s domain, a communiqué that nothing is black or white but that life, in the words of Louis MacNeice, is a mad weir of tigerish waters/a prism of delight and pain. Hooker enters those wild waters of history to re-inhabit the gloom but re-emerges too late. With terror already visited, a poet’s task is one of ethical remembrance – to give voice to the voiceless victims of life unjust and unfair. From the prism of pain comes a message of hope in Szirtes’ poem for a sick friend. As a self unselfs the sea is dark but here and there the light/catches the waves even at dead of night. Luke Kennard’s surreal and illuminating narratives link the philosophical and the sensual: I would also like my skin to be thought. There are dualities in personality and poetry, some things are just between you and yourself, but to write is to hurl a part of yourself towards someone; to turn your private possessions into images as Heaney would say. And in these prose poems, as in Szirtes, images of time flourish exposing falsities and truths, teasing us into resyncing and returning (particularly in this period of puzzledom) to that post-Gregorian year that was only 282 days long. And latterly a message of delight from Irish poet Mark Roper. The broad leafed beauty in his poetry hails our interconnectedness with nature that dwells in us as we live in it: The house takes place on bog, he says, the cast of bees in your studio. Bees bridging worlds and poems.
There is a communality to poetry that links us as readers. In these solitary and isolating times, this particular collection I hope will leave us feeling less alone and more connected. To borrow from Hooker, poetry is still here, praying the old prayers. My sincere thanks to George Szirtes, Eleanor Hooker, Mark Roper and Luke Kennard for their enriching contributions to this issue.