I don’t know a huge amount about classical music, but I’ve always rather liked Mozart. I hadn’t realised why until I started playing his work myself. Despite being simplified and mangled by my grade 4 clarinet abilities, his pieces have a sense of joy, even at their most solemn. There’s a love of the surprise turn, the unexpected phrase, the ripple and flow of sound. There’s an understanding of how pitch and rhythm can work on the emotions.
And so with poetry. The best poetry has that same delight but in language, in the sound and feel of words in the mouth, in the way vowels can be long and sonorous or light and dancing. There's a precision in the use of pattern and syntax, carefully worked like a sculptor chips and smoothes the curving angles of each toe, a knowledge of the way consonants rub against each other or lead the reader forward, an awareness of the etymology of words so that each resounds with the deeper tones of its wider meaning. Every word is scrutinised for sound and fit. But poets can do more than play with sound. They can use metaphor and simile and a dozen other devices to show us a new way of reading the world, distilling emotion down to one pure sentence and pouring that thought across the mundane.
Don Paterson talks of the poem having “to surprise, delight, scare you or blow you away” - and that's just its effect on the poet, writing the thing, never mind the reader. The best poetry works its way into your mind and memory and persists, altering the way you perceive the world, takes ideas and mixes them together in ways that illuminate both in a strange light.
The poems we’re privileged to publish in this issue cover a range of styles but all have this sensitivity to language, have images and sounds that resonate in the silence at the end of the verse. I could talk about what we love in all these poems. Jane Røken yokes a series of startling images together to serve her dream-like elegy, each vivid and resonant. Mario Petrucci’s “when a gaze”, has tenderness, suppressed emotional language, controlled expression, and limits itself to one dramatic moment (the split of “stup/endously”, which mimics the caught breath of its feeling). Jan Fortune gives us lyricism of folkloric simplicity, enriched by the placing of words on the page to modulate her words into echoes we might believe are “the language of slate”. Catherine Edmunds weaves a mystery for us out of images and half-narrative, a mystery we’ve yet to decode, but one which draws us in each time we read. Thomas Zimmerman offers a sonnet, but not one slavish to the form, happily switching the rhyme scheme, mixing full and half rhyme, using both end-stops and enjambment to give the poem a natural conversational flow. But we’d rather let you discover their delights for yourself.
It’s been a strange experience, creating a magazine out of nothing but ether and words, and we hope you enjoy it.