Michael Haslam has become a glossographer of the upper Calder Valley through almost 50 years of wandering its cloughs and groughs, its royds and lumbs. He is absorbed in and by the language and history of its terrain.
In these ‘pastorals of the common man’ the musicality and muscularity of his words carry this exuberance from the landscape to the page. And for Haslam, like Harrison, ‘matter’ and ‘water’ can be a full-rhyme.
On each of these 36 pages Michael Haslam sets out (on foot) into the world immediately confronting him, and gathers from it the words, experience, memories, percepts that he needs to form a poetry of rich texture. He does this singingly, so that the words echo each other and form queues, and with the sharpest awareness of all the bright play offered by language when it is opened up, when it faces its own history. The accumulation, constantly seeking closer particulars and further connections, welcomes dialect and science, the meanings of place names, star jelly and deoxyribonucleic acid, as necessary terms of the song, which is finally the song of where he is, which is the Calder Valley, West Yorkshire, and the world, the absolute gained by loving attention to the particular.
A Michael Haslam publication is an event of some significance. He is a poet whose music has long been fully – wonderfully – developed … it reminds one of what poetry is capable.
Ian Brinton reviews Michael Haslam’s poems in Tears in the Fence – https://tearsinthefence.com/?s=michael+haslam
Scaplings, Star Jelly, and a Seeming Sense of Soul
The edifice of work and life, an old retaining wall
that long held back a seam of flaking shale
collapses as a crumpled face into a rubble pile.
From high imperium to small importance fall
impotence, imprudence, impertinence and all
the way from imputation back to impact
trail the files for miles and fail
for want of style to face the facts beyond recall.
Nobody floats his boat about to clear
the fogbound coast of panacea. Nobody steers
his craft across the shoals of an obscure idea.
Nobody hears the siren singing as she sorts the shells
from shingle on the pebble shelf. Nobody tingles quite so well
the singularities of english as myself, I’ve seen me swell.
The sky turns bluely black to blackly blue and back.
The forky bolt ignipotent shot over scroggy holt,
a blitz illumination, a synaptic jolt,
a stroke of light to startle coney in the delfstone delf.
Scaplings, Michael Haslam, £7