5 Poets in Acumen

5 Poets in Acumen

Acumen was started in 1985 by Patricia Oxley and is now a fat (120 page) production appearing three times a year, with articles, reviews, translations, but mostly poetry. Each issue contains around 50 poems, and the style is mainstream with an emphasis on what might be called an intelligent use of craft. Many contributors are well known on the UK poetry scene, but new poets are also found a place. Only three issues are currently online via the Poetry Library on London’s Southbank (issues 39, 46 and 50) and it is from issue 50 (September 2004) that I’ve selected five pieces for brief review. The pieces largely speak for themselves: I’ll just note the features that seem specially worthy of comment.

Ghazal by Mimi Khalvati can be read at:  http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=21608

The aa etc. xa ya za aa rhyme scheme is difficult to accomplish in English, but Ms Khalvati succeeds magnificently, even ending with a tribute to Persian poets and the teasing final couplet popular with them. Particularly pleasing is the tone, playful and affectionate. It starts with:

If I am the grass and you the breeze, blow through me.
If I am the rose and you the bird, then woo me.

And ends 7 couplet later with:

If, when it ends, we are just good friends, be my Friend,
muse, brother and guide, Shamsuddin to my Rumi.

Be heaven and earth to me and I’ll be twice the me
I am, if only half the world you are to me.

That same consistently of tone is achieved by Ian Caws’ Cottages in the Weald ( http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=21587)
How does one introduce a long descriptive piece? In this case by a dream sequence:

Falling asleep the second time that night,
I found them there, cottages in the Weald.

Which is also a flashback:

And the people, soldiers from the Great War,
Widows who never kept their larders filled,

Then a personal note:

And flaky paint, faded by Sussex light
And old fences made good with chicken wire.

Which is then emphasized:

I was young then but could feel their tiredness

Then come another 14 lines of description, features precise noted, and then the close, with its impressive control of consonants to underline the fade out.

And the people I knew, who turned down lights
When I left, quiet there as a page’s
Turning, as unreachable as peace is.

The title of Ruth O’Callaghan’s piece – The Richness of Sea Brown Shingle – is echoed in the richness of description. The poem can be read at:  http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=21595

Note how the rhythm in the opening lines echoes the sensation of walking on shingle:

I could write of the slow tread
along the grey shore, the richness
of brown shingle, sea-burnished,

From which we move to the shingle or chippings on railway tracks, which have been tarmacked over, though still remembered:

On such a night the thin whistle
of the long gone train hangs over tracks

And the Irish connection to railway navies:

when engines, now dismantled, would let steam,

softer than the sigh of Guinness after a long day’s scything:

But without sentimentality: these were hard lives:

  they harvest grievances,
heaving through the draughty sprawl of town
in a bitterness of rain.

The nostalgia of autumn leaves may have been done to death in poetry, but in Rose Flint’s October Blessing ( http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=21703) we have an unusual and entertaining lead into something more:

The leaves are blessing me, the falling leaves
are blessing me and the road, the falling fiery leaves
are generous with their blessings and include
my old silver Saab, a Dalmatian, the tax inspector

Then, with further description, we move to winter:

This winter will bring blessing even under ice, under snow
and sorrow. In my own boulevard the tax inspector and I
will be blessed with lucks printing their sudden colours
on our roads and careful lawns, the hound’s coming and going.

And so to spring. Much more could be done with this approach but, like others here, the poem accomplishes very well what it does attempt.

Finally – much more could be quoted, and I hope readers will do their own reading – there is Sebastian Barker’s knockabout piece in neat couplets: from The Erotics of God: Epithalamion. It’s at:

and starts grandly (though with tongue in cheek with) with:

Immortal God’s almighty eyes
Enclose and light the starry skies.

By day the luminary sun
Instructs us in our union.

Take my hand and lead me to
The country of my love for you.

Adds various comic effects:

I see a village, where the sun
Dandles on thatch the holy one

Of Ramsbury. He is the word
As fortunate as those who’ve heard

And ends wistfully with.

Him calling from the rooftops, where
The trees articulate the air.

‘O eros of the promised land

Good fun throughout.

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