Critique About Tim

Andrew Duncan

Andrew Duncan

Andrew Duncan 

Tim Fletcher (from ‘For Messiaen’ in First Offense #5)

hum of luminary jasper and sapphire through infinity of
cosmic stadia cadence of chalcedon and emerald through
rivered crystalline gold spirance of topaz and sardonyx
through trees of healing fruits tremelo of jacinth and
amethyst through moonless and sunless splendours

white flying horse of blood

mouthed vibrant sword

dark swarms of flesh gorged fowl

are not the secrets of the brass slammed angelus

massed fortissimo of effulgent gardens sprung from
crimson earth

abyss of staggering lights

sewn in silver scales

of fissured moulin membrane


There is little to add to what the quoted poem makes obvious: Fletcher recalls what in poetry brought about a high, a state of excitement, and discards the rest as surplus weight. He is incited by a total admiration for jazz, where the excitement seems to come from the players’ startled sensing that they do not need the props of written melody but can pursue whatever loose airs the night and the occasion supply. The attack on excitement is direct, he has no interest in realism and personal experience. Sources of imagery – works of alchemy, descriptions of Aztec religion – are no more than that. Yet he is very clear about his aims, which is true for few poets these days. Obvious resemblances to Symbolisme, the language of Christian mystics drawing on the Book of Revelations (especially chapter 21), and psychedelia can be found, but really the idea is autonomy, to liberate the poem from any realist function and push its expressive and suggestive potential to the maximum. It would seem that this is what the audience most wants, and indeed it is hard to see what the consumer used to music and painting would see desirable in poetry that does not deal in vivid, detailed, stunning images. The work can be found in two books, Derivations (poems inspired by the works of the soprano sax player Steve Lacy) and Firesong. I am bound to wonder why, when an English modernist poet writes a poem about jazz, there is a 60% chance that it will be Steve Lacy. Fletcher also edits, from Canterbury, First Offense, the best of the avant-garde magazines.
Andrew is a talented contemporary poet. He is also a highly regarded critic of literature
and a gifted linguist and translator.Tim Fletcher’s Ignis Innaturalis (First Offense)
Posted on November 8, 2014 by tearsinthefence