My new poetry collection was launched – sent out hitching on the information highway – earlier this month. David Eggleton gave a rocking, almost chanting speech that felt like a performance work in its own right, and which I revisit in my head when first-draft anxiety ambushes me again.
Quite a few of the pieces in this new collection play with the idea of the poem as a letter, or correspondence, addressed to some ideal imaginary reader. In fact, the book’s title means it is directly addressed to the reader, even though, as the Argentinan poet Antonio Porchia expresses it in his work Voces – ‘I know what I have given you. I do not know what you have received.’
When this collection finally shook down into some kind of shape, a visual memory of artist Nick Austin’s ‘Travelling Envelope’ series instantly zoomed up — like a film clip rather than a single picture. The sense of physical movement was palpable. You can see it here on the final cover image (designed by Fiona Moffat) in the rolling hills and all the jaunty angles, but I also think the feeling of animation is helped by Nick’s playful wit; the absurd and hopeful stoicism of this little bare-armed paper freeloader.
I love the way, if you linger on the image, there’s also a sense of the unknown, of risk; a potential twist of the untoward, which is also what I wanted some of the poems here to approach. I love the element of masking and possible vulnerability in both the invisible driver and the potential passenger — whose face we also don’t see. There’s a game of conceal and reveal here, which is a bit like the reader-writer relationship too.
That edge of anticipation, maybe even a frisson of fear, remind me of sending poetry, or any writing, out into the world … not knowing whether it will be accepted, rejected, well-received, misunderstood, or maybe even have empty beer bottles flung at it from a speeding window. I love having Nick Austin’s beguiling, comedic work on the cover. It somehow balances both an attractive simplicity and yet something eerie and enigmatic too.
For readers interested in other work by Nick, there is another title – Personal Address – which reproduces more of his paintings in this series, and which includes letters between Nick and art writer Wystan Curnow. More information on that title is available from http://www.hopkinsonmossman.com.
For any readers curious about To the Occupant, there is a deliciously easy and efficient bright blue Buy Now Button at this link: