Tuesday Poem: Uses of the Body as a Source for Allegory and Metaphor - Roy Marshall

The excavated skull of the affair and the built up
head of steam;  the face of loss, a clock, a cliff; the teeth

of cogs, combs, the wind;  the lips of pitchers, craters
and augers;  the jaws of mull-grips and dilemmas, not to mention

death;  the tongues of brogues and ancient Doc Martens;
the crotches of arches;  the long arm of the church

and of boredom;  the armpit of the paramilitary wing;  the brow
of the beaten, the hill, of morning;  the breast made clean;  the skin

of milk and of a balmy evening;  the hard shoulder of regret,
the hair of the dog and its breadth;  the knuckle of attraction

and the pierced nipple of fate;  the long femur of the terminally hip;
the greased palm and the padlocked heart of British Steel;  the spine

of the barn, of stepping stones, of the poem;  the vertebrae
of e-mail and the gonads of vulnerability;  the nose of the drink,

of the parson, to the grindstone;  the cheeks in lamé trousers
like two peaches in a solder fountain;  the ear to the ground,

the chest, the sky;  the tender inner thigh of expectation;
the eye of the storm, the potato and the sunflower;

of the hurricane, the needle, the target, the tiger;
of love, of god, of the beholder.

© Roy Marshall

The Great Animator, Shoestring Press, 2017

I'm a big fan of Roy Marshall's blog  where he shares his thoughts on poetry and often leads me to poets I might not have sought out myself.  I've also been intrigued by comments from friends about his new collection, The Great Animator, published by Shoestring Press, so I ordered a copy.  It didn't disappoint.

Another poet once told me that when you put a collection together you should aim to have three or four stand-out, 'wow' poems in it - that was all the reader could expect. The rest would generally be well-crafted, middle of the road stuff.  Roy Marshall doesn't seem to have been given that advice. There are a lot of 'wow' poems in this collection. And the way the poems are arranged means that they feed off each other, having conversations across the pages as well as with the reader.

From Horses, to Crow Etiquette, and the longevity of a tortoise, to the ghoulish science of the body farm and the teeth taken from bodies killed at Waterloo to make falsies for the toothless rich back home in England - there's surprise and discovery on almost every page.

Roy Marshall worked as a cardiac nurse, so it's only to be expected that some of the best poems, like the one above, are grounded in the physical.  Structures and Pathways, Sterile Field, Breaking the News, Shocks, are all poems that deal with the reality of working at the interface of life and death.  My favourite poem from this section was 'Carrying the Arrest Bleep' that begins:

'It's cool, at first, to feel it
weighting my pocket, to be wired to a voice
swathed in static,

to run through empty corridors
past a gallery of night-blacked windows,
down stairwells

the smell of the dust
drifting in the hospital's
concrete heart. . .  '

Then the brutal reality of CPR, the Frankenstein electric shocking of fragile, aged bodies with the intention of bringing them back to some semblance of life -  the process is described in such a way as to question our attitude to death and our obsession with the preservation of life at all costs.

'all our futures laid bare
in a strip-lit bay, the whole scene
lasting far too long

and when the registrar asks
if we agree to stop, I meet
his eye, and nod.'

It resonates with the title poem, The Great Animator, which addresses our belief systems in some form of creation and control;

A God to Hindu and Lakota, you masquerade
   as four stags of Norse myth, the deity
       Fei Lan, sweeping haze-draped Beijing.

 The poem is infused with the ambiguity in the title - puppeteer or creator?   'Destroyer of doldrums, transformer of slender sail/to pregnant belly . . . Yours is the hand/encircling the cool and fevered planet . . . Sand twister,/builder of pyramids,/you stop the eyes and mouths/of ruined places.'   And then comes the revelation in the last two lines;

Meet me again on that ledge where
   arms outstretched  I leaned and was held.

The Great Animator, Roy Marshall, 2017 £9.50 inc postage and packing

Roy Marshall was born in 1966. His mother was born in Italy, his father in London. Roy wanted to be a writer as a child and young man but became distracted for about twenty years during which time he found himself variously employed as a delivery driver, gardener and coronary care nurse, amongst other occupations.  

His previous publications are:

Gopagilla, Crystal Clear Press, 2012
The Sun Bathers, Shoestring Press, 2013 (shortlisted for the Michael Murphy award)


  1. Very Beautiful Poem.. I liked it... Thanks for sharing...

    Please visit : https://traveltaughts.blogspot.in/


Post a Comment

Popular Posts