Monday, 10 November 2014

The Tuesday Poem: Vanishing Point by Clare Crossman

On Northend Field at the crossroads behind
an ancient chestnut tree, a gate opens on to ten acres
stretching toward an eastward slipping road.

I go there when I'm unsure.
A green tunnel of trees opens
to where the wind blows a straight path.

Here's where Tudor kings listened to larks,
that still sing heedlessly, staking their ground,
between a seed factory and a black barn.

Never far from water:  there is a chalk stream,
tracing the sound of rain over gravel and disappearing
into land so flat it's an entirely empty page.

Under my feet silver coins were discovered
in the parsnip furrows.  There is nothing to fence
me in but air and a sky.

Out here in the world it is just an ordinary day.
Somewhere behind me a window opens
and ditches trace the edges of the vista.

Wires sing along the hedges;
in the distance two horses canter away
through the long grass at vanishing point.

Copyright - Clare Crossman, Vanishing Point
Published by Shoestring Press, 2013


When I was back in England earlier this year I heard Clare read from this collection and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Clare has a quiet gift for describing landscapes that shape themselves on the page like paintings. One of the long sequences in the collection, Artists Books, explores the way visual images are committed to paper by painter, printer and poet.
'Trees shudder to bareness,
their shapes dissolve.
Suddenly everything is colour . . .'

The people who inhabit Clare's landscapes are gently drawn.  This is Verity -
'She is brought into the ward barefoot,
someone on either side, her index finger
browned from rolling cigarettes. . .'

Zarrin is characterised by her Ossie Clark dress:
'. . . deep blue crepe
with a red satin sash and a neckline
feathered with hand-sewn overlapping leaves.'

Most of these poems have a contemplative feel and the poet's eye is often turned inwards.  The best poems are the long sequences - in particular The Night Ship which is a prize-winning series of poems set in the surreal world of a mental health hospital.
'On the night ship, keys for
drug-cupboards are the life-belts
tied on the watchman's waist.'

The characters who travel on it have complicated pasts and unique ways of looking at the world beyond the locked doors that are both internal and external.

'When neighbours ask she won't let them in,
makes a shrine of tree roots in the house.
When the ambulance comes, they
find her wrapped in an old blanket,
ready for leaving.'

Other reviewers have described Clare's poems in this collection as 'beautiful and unsettling' and I would agree with this.

You can find Clare Crossman's website here.

If you'd like to see what other Tuesday Poets are posting, please take the time to click over to the main hub here.  We're a group of 28 poets from around the world, New Zealand, USA, Europe, West Africa, Australia and Canada - it's a glorious mix! 

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