Finch Collected Poems is published in two volumes running to
almost a thousand pages. The books are edited by Andrew Taylor with
forewords from Ian McMillan and Nerys Williams. From the 60s to the
2020s Finch's poetry has been gathered. His visual work has been repaired,
his innovations strengthened, his verse represented in all its wide
chart the course of a remarkable writing career. From his start among
the small presses, his engagement with the UK poetry reading scene,
his involvement with the avant garde, his participation in the poetries
of everywhere from Wales to Waikiki and his determination to make
all this as public an activity as he could. He founded Second Aeon
magazine and publishing house, started a poetry and music band, ran
small press bookfairs, bookshops, bookfairs, writers associations,
the Welsh Academy and, before he retired, became the Chief Executive
of the agency Literature Wales. He was a poetry entrepreneur in all
senses of the word. He brought to all these things an unquenchable
vitality which set him apart in contemporary poetry.
The first volume makes available poems from lost chapbooks, broadsheets
and limited editions, as well as more conventionally published work.
Here are concrete poems, sound poems, typographical poems, visual
poems, poems in cartoon form or as crumpled photocopies. Whatever
their structure, Finch's poems are always vivid and alive, pulsing
with inventive energy. As he says himself, this is work which pushes
the idea on until it breaks, flowers, or dissolves. Finch's writing
can never be taken for granted.
volume includes poems from further on into his career, in which poetry
also began to appear in his prose books, and in the public realm on
sculptures, walls and buildings of his native Cardiff. This work continued
to 'operate at the far edges of what poetry is understood to be'.
Although the poetry landscape of Britain might have changed since
his first published poem in 1965, his desire to experiment, to question
what constitutes a poem, and to challenge orthodoxy has remained both
undiminished and relevant.
The Collected Poems demonstrates also a restless exploration of the
ideas behind the work itself. It is a testament to the experimental
in literature, to ways of pushing boundaries and of doing things differently,
and to an alternative modernist culture in Wales and Britain.
and invaluably, Finch's work opens a window on a poetry scene seemingly
lost from view to the twenty-first century. It reminds us that there
was interesting and vital writing happening outside of what has now
calcified into the canon of twentieth century British poetry. And
that Finch was at its cutting edge.
Editor Andrew Taylor has included an informative Introduction, an
extensive timeline of Finch's artistic activity, along with helpful
notes. Vol One has a preface by poet Nerys Williams. Vol Two has a
preface from Ian McMillan.
Signed copies available with a special two vols almost for the price
of one offer. Don't miss it.
the Critics Say
word, 'Finchian', meaning "like the writing of Peter Finch".
Whether you're familiar with Finch's writing or not - as one of the
UK's leading poets, you need to be! - it might be useful here to think
of finches the birds: sharp-eyed, smart, and agile; sometimes musical,
often colourful; as a family, remarkably diverse - all descriptions
that could be attributed to the work of Finch himself.
I first heard the poet on the radio when I was a teenager; now, as
an adult, I was pleased to be present at the launch of the poet's
collected poems, which marks the culmination of nearly 60 years of
publication. This two-tome volume is weighty, stylish, and chock full
of poetic delights, from proclamation and provocation to concrete
and cut-up, including list poems, prose poems, pictorial poems, and
more. Poems might contain an excess of brackets, or numbers, or be
made up of words that slide and smear across the page. They may resemble
a telephone directory; form a circle or the shape of a planet; or
be entirely diagrammatic. Poems might also be 'poem-shaped', resembling
what we think of as poems, but Finch might well use that form to subvert
and surprise, too.
Unpredictable and exciting, these books show the sheer range of the
poet, and why he does deserve his own descriptive word. One of the
first poems in the collection, A Welsh Wordscape, summarises exactly
what Finch isn't:
"To live in Wales,
Is to be mumbled at
by re-incarnations of Dylan Thomas
in numerous diverse disguises"
Well, Finch isn't an imitator, but he does still carry through that
flaming torch of pure unbridled energy which we associate with Thomas.
Personally, I find Finch far less morose than Thomas, who could at
times sermonise; there is no such leadenness here. Finch has always
been and still is, experimental, with a daring and intelligent imagination
that is enviable. He's always been a poet who lifts up, and off, into
airy new terrain
Finch-like. Finchian. A must-read collection,
- Mab Jones in Buzz. "New
poetry for June: Welsh summer special."
Loydell in Tears In The Fence
press world was very different in 1982 when my friend Graham Palmer
and I started Stride magazine. Magazines were analogue, usually photocopied
or duplicated, often stapled by hand, and sales were via mail order
unless you could persuade alternative bookshops to take
copies on sale or return. Even when booksellers were friendly and
did sell copies, it was hard to extract money from them; and sales
never covered the petrol I used up motorcycling round London stores
or driving the meandering route I sometimes took to drop copies off
in Oxford, Leamington Spa, Coventry, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester
There was, of course, no internet, email, or social media. You could
swop flyers, leave them in bookshops or the South Bank poetry library,
and send review copies out often in exchange for magazines
you were expected to review. There were small press fairs, often in
draughty halls in strange towns or cities, with little publicity and
even fewer sales, though you did get to meet other publishers and
poets. I particularly remember the first time I met Allen Fisher and
Alan Halsey in Shrewsbury, and also meeting and propping up a bar
in Northampton with Mike Shields (of Orbis) and Martin Stannard because
the main room with our stalls in was suddenly and unforgivably
commandeered for an all day poetry reading.
small press poets who immediately got in touch with every new magazine
who editors soon learnt to ignore, along with submissions of rhyming
doggerel, but there was also the delight in hearing from new authors,
and in becoming part of something that seemed alive and experimental,
with a history of 1960s and 70s revolutionary zeal, readings and magazines,
but that now walked hand-in-hand with post-punk and improvised music,
music zines and independent cassette labels, radical theatre, and
new performance and exhibition spaces.
of course key individuals within the small press scene, often at odds
with the likes of the Poetry Society and ignored by mainstream poetry
publishers, and there was one more key than others: Peter Finch, who
operated out of Oriel, Cardiff. He had previous with his own small
presses, and actually wanted to stock new magazines, wanted to submit
to yours (and mine), wanted you to keep going, wanted you to be different,
opinionated and make things possible; he would heckle and encourage.
He put on poetry festivals and events in Cardiff, which is where I
was first introduced to him in person by the writer John Gimblett.
I had a Stride stall, did a reading, and watched Bob Cobbing and Bird
Yak clear a restaurant with their mix of yowling, abstract drumming
and gas-mask one-string guitar. Id seen plenty of that kind
of stuff at the London Musicians Collective, usually with five or
six others watching, but nobody except Finch would think of sticking
them in front of 200 people eating their lunch and then enjoy watching
the diners responses and subsequent mass exodus, leaving full
plates and wine glasses abandoned on the tables.
Ive promoted a couple of Finch readings in Exeter one
as a support act to Roger McGough, which he smashed; read once or
twice more in Cardiff for him; and co-tutored an Arvon Foundation
course with him. And although Ive failed to tempt him down to
Cornwall, weve kept in vague touch via emails and poems. Ive
also amassed courtesy of jumble sales, library turn-outs and
secondhand bookshops quite a collection of early Finch publications,
which helped explain the amazing and informed talk he gave at Arvon
on Sound and Visual Poetry, and also offered critical context.
these hefty new books make evident, Finch came out of Dada and Surrealism,
out of performance and sound poetry, out of collage and cut-up, erasure
and what we now call sampling and remix. His work is entertaining,
experimental, thought-provoking and accessible; a real picknmix
in fact. But Finch knows what he is doing, and over the years I learnt
to trust him completely as an editor and poet. When he opened for
Roger McGough in a sold out Exeter theatre he began with an abstract
sound poem, and I confess I had a moment of panic. Soon, however,
the audience, who were mostly there to see the headliner, began nervously
laughing before guffawing and offering wild applause. Finch reeled
them in further with a couple of more straightforward poems and kept
them in the palm of his hand for the rest of his varied performance.
great that Seren have given Finch (and his editor Andrew Taylor) so
much space to fill, and have reproduced so much of Finchs visual
work, some even in colour. Subject matter, processes, affectations,
source material and poetic influences, enter, exit and re-enter the
work, but there are always new materials, new processes and ideas
in the mix too. There is also a sustained attention to and curiosity
about language itself: how it can be remoulded, changed, abused, erased;
what happens when syntax or meaning is destroyed, when different vocabularies
or reference materials collide, when texts are alphabetized, torn
up, or turned into lists. How poetry can be made new. Always.
sprawls and expands, feeding on itself and everything that is around
it. It comments and critiques, dances and debates, screams and shouts,
sometimes sulks in the corner but then quietly comes out rested and
refreshed, raring to go. It is alert, blurred, crumpled, distressed,
energetic, folded, gorgeous, hilarious, incredible, jokey, charismatic.
It is often ridiculous, always serious, never afraid to embarrass
itself or satirize others, whilst constantly acknowledging Schwitters,
Cobbing, Ginsberg, and whoever Finch has been reading that morning.
It is questionable, ridiculous, subversive, terrific, unique poetry
which cannot be snared, trapped or caged; yet Taylor and Seren Books
have charmed it on to the pages of this generous, rain-filled, assertive,
definitive collection. I look forward to volume three.
In The Fence, July 11, 2022
Mee - The
Idea of a 'Collected Poems' Has Always Seemed a Scary Prospect ...
in What? You want to dig out everything Ive ever completed
or abandoned and put them all in a book? Why? Some will be so bad
theyll be embarrassing.
the type of thing that usually happens to more accomplished and better
known writers than me, and usually when theyre dead, so the
truth is there is nothing to be frightened of. On
the opposite side of the experience, reading every poem someone has
written might seem a massive and potentially draining task unless
you were planning to write an academic thesis. Even
so, I was fascinated by the idea of Peter Finchs two-volume
Collected Poems (Seren, £19.99 each book) given that he had
so much of his early work in long out-of-print small magazines
and that he is still alive.
As a kind
of preparation, I looked again at Philip Larkins Collected Poems,
published in 1988, three years after his death. Its illuminating
to see how organised and competent a writer he was when he was still
so young, though perhaps thats in part a result of the constraints
of his time, in that it was easier to know then where to pitch oneself
if you wanted to write poetry and were English. But what did I gain
from reading all of those early poems, including one published in
a school magazine when Larkin was sixteen? Sadly, the answer is not
Larkin have thought of it? True, he kept meticulously dated notebooks,
to the point where an individual poem could be traced over time, but
I am not sure that the legendary librarian of Hull University would
have approved of every single one of the contents of these personal
books being lumped together and offered to the general public as proof,
one way or the other, of his historical standing. Perhaps the limit
of his intentions in keeping the notebooks was to offer any future
students a chance to assess him in terms of an essay here, a thesis
there. (Or maybe hed wanted them thrown out when he had gone.)
But the whole lot thrown together for public consumption?
alive, at least has been able to control whats included and
what is quietly omitted. And, even if that makes it a kind of Selected
Collected Poems, I dont blame him a bit. This way, we know he
feels there is, or might be, some value and relevance in each of the
pieces that are included.
And I do prefer
the idea of a Collected Poems, good, bad and indifferent, to one of
those slim Selected Poems volumes that only scratch the surface of
what a poet is about. Im thinking of another book on the shelf,
the unsatisfactory, 33-poem selection of W H Audens work, published
in 1968. I believe Auden was involved in the production of that, so
must take some responsibility for it. However, so much is left out
that it runs like a brief introduction. And, of course, there was
so much more to come.
Back to Finch,
whose work now stretches back more than fifty years. He, and everyone
else involved with the project, will know the collective effort and
dedication that is required to get something like this into print.
Its huge but admirable and, in my view, well-deserved,
if the arrival of a Collected Poems is, in the end, to be considered
I had a fairly
inadequate stab at considering what Finch is about in a previous blog,
centred on the books I had bought of his over the years, so dont
intend to attempt an in-depth assessment of the 950-odd pages in the
two volumes. Sufficient to say that as usual, while there are orthodox,
plainly written pieces, some apparently personal and anecdotal, and
therefore easy to understand, in others the boundaries of what people
might perceive a poem to be are tested again and again. (If you want
to see the earlier blog, its under the title of The
Value Of Doing Things Your Own Way A Brief Look At The Work
Of Peter Finch, from June 2021.)
on a work trip, a colleague picked up a book of Diane Wakorskis
work that I had with me. He read a couple of the poems, looked mystified
and said: I dont understand. Is this poetry or is it just ideas?
As usual, I found it hard to respond. I am no defender of anyones
poetry, including my own, or other kinds of writing for that matter,
and for all the time Ive been writing I still cant explain
exactly what poetry might or might not be. That, perhaps, to me, is
the point and why I find Finch interesting.
put Wakorskis book down and took the traditional higher ground
that poetry wasnt poetry if it didnt rhyme. There wasnt
much point in telling him about Paradise Lost or The Prelude but stupidly
I did attempt a vague stab at the suggestion that poetry may have
used rhyme because travelling, illiterate balladeers found it easier
to remember the words if they had the comfort of rhymes to hold on
to, rather like most songs. Once it started to be written down and
published, by those who could write and afford to publish, this was
no longer necessary, although for centuries people preferred it that
way and many still do. Yes, folks, I came across as a pretentious
idiot, sensed it, and fell back on the weary old chestnut In the end,
its what you like, which always translates as Ive no idea
what Im talking about.
What my colleague
would have made of Finch, I cant imagine. We have the concrete
poems, sound poems, performance poems, whatever comes into your head
poems, even images of, for example, crumpled pieces of paper, purported
to be critical reviews in poetry mags of the time.
He does what
he wants and does it his own way. We dont have to like everything
he does. He would probably think there was something slightly wrong
with us if we did because the point is that hes trying to challenge
us to rethink, reconsider, wonder why something he has done in an
apparently odd way is how it is. I enjoy the way he explores ideas,
in the methods he uses to communicate as well as in the more formal
In his foreword
to the second book (1997-2021), Ian McMillan recalls the time Finch
was guest poet at Ty Newydd, the longstanding venue for those who
want to attend poetry courses. McMillan, who was teaching there, asked
Finch to liven things up a bit perhaps a daft and dangerous
thing to do! Finch responded by reading chunks of a Mills and Boon
novel, tore pages out as he read them and ate them. McMillan
felt that in doing so he challenged the relationship between writer
and reader, performer and audience.
avant-garde, concrete, experimental, inventive, alternative are so
often applied to poets the world doesnt quite understand or
cant pigeon-hole. I dont want to go too near those traps
but to interest me a poem has to feel like its living, breathing,
feeling. At his best, Finch involves me in his work in this way.
inevitably gloss over the stranger pieces because they wont
get them. Sounds, images, images which combine with texts,
found poems, all fit with a quotation from Finch, included by Andrew
Taylor in his introduction, where he says: It is a perfectly respectable
approach to make poetry from not what is inside the head but from
the swirl of words outside it.
calls Finch one of Britains leading poets. Im not really
sure what one of those is but I take the point that Finch is trying
to challenge where poetry might take us and in that sense is
attempting to lead us somewhere, anywhere, perhaps hes not exactly
sure where, to offer us the potential to move our own writing into
places we had not previously considered taking it.
just too many pieces in this spread of more than half a century of
writing to pick up quotations or select one over another. Enough to
say I know I will read and re-read, look at, dip into these two books,
as and when, for a long time to come. I am grateful to Finch himself
and to Seren for having the energy and ambition to make them available.
-Bob Mee in
And More, July, 2022
Blaney - Things Fall Together | On Peter Finch's Collected Poems
This is almost 1,000 pages
of poetry, stretching from 1968 until 2021. You might think, why not
add a couple of new poems and it could have 2022 on the cover; and
of course the answer is that Finch has another book coming out later
this year. The man is unstoppable.
A quick recap
if you are new to Finch: the poems range from the formally inventive
to the conventionally formal. He is well-known in Wales as an innovator,
a surrealist, a relentless experimenter. His collections mash up art,
the concrete with the mainstream, the list poem, the poem with no
words at all and the downright weird. So to nail him down to a philosophy
or an aesthetic seems overly ambitious, but theres a thread
running from his first published work in 1968 through to what hes
going to write tomorrow things fall apart. His drive is a restlessness,
an inability to accept the status quo, a free acknowledgement that
everything is in flux and that to deny this or try to impose order
on the unorderable is doomed to failure. We dont want things
to fall apart, and the struggle against it is what gives Finch the
fuel for his vehicle.
work makes us experience this by his refusal to conform to what we
might think a poem is. Consider the first line of Politic,
a poem from Math (1996):
is (could be) always (inevitably) historically (mythologised) possibly
(certainly) at war (rebuilding) (restructuring) (unplating) with what
comes (arrives) (sails) immediately (historically) before (after)
a lot going on in there, but if your first reaction is to find it
incomprehensible dont worry. Imagine being a surfer.
The thrill of surfing is not in trying to control the water; the thrill
is in fearing you might fall off.
poems explore entropy in more explicit ways. In Roofer,
black sludge everywhere and the tar fix to repair
/ the flat roof fails as I watch it. In House Painting,
the narrator decorates a wall whilst new neighbours are eating
things on sticks whilst thinking how hard it is / to change
anything for long:
there. This is the future.
I wet the
Many of the
non-narrative poems are about order breaking down and
stability turning to decay. Sometimes poems falter until the words
and then the letters themselves degrade, ending in a static-like hiss.
Putting together the Seren collections has involved some heavy-duty
excavation; with many of the original pamphlets in extremely limited
editions, a long time ago, much has vanished or has slipped down the
side of Finchs sofa. The appeal of the typewritten poem is its
imperfections, and in an endnote for Blues, the editor
explains that the lost Olivetti typewriter originals are recreated
with a font designed to mimic its decayed look.
If most of
us are in a battle to impose order on chaos, the corollary for Finch
is that we can make a poem out of anything. At the launch a few weeks
ago, someone asked Finch his tips for conquering writers block.
Good question were in expert company here. Stand up.
Take a book this is an old Mills & Boon novel,
Finch explained, I got it for 5p in a charity shop. Rip
the book apart physically destroy it. The pages scatter to
the floor. Pick pages up at random. Read out lines that leap out.
Stitch them together, and you have a poem. The cut-up technique has
had its day, but as a workshop exercise its one of many useful
things you can learn from watching Finch in action. Its a jumping-off
point for something else, and you wont know what until you get
there. Rather like stretching before exercise, you find you can run
At the end
of the launch the more gig-inclined of us found scraps of abandoned
Mills & Boon as souvenirs.
kissed Viola elegantly,
looking proud and yet modest in some indefinable way, mine says.
all of this is Finchs second theme the individuals
place in the wider scheme of things. This is the middle eight, if
you like, in his rock song. Out at the edge sees the poet
on a Pembrokeshire headland, looking towards America: but dont
see it. / Mist, distance, earths curvature, / or maybe it just
Sheep he pauses in the middle of nowhere, annoyed by some graffiti.
While I seethe / they stand and shit. / When I go / they stay.
The world carries on regardless, whether were there or not.
Finch is touching at the existential here; keep grinding away at this
idea and, like the typefaces, our sense of identity, purpose, fades
and vanishes. But as always its done with humour.
For someone who might be described as a difficult read,
he is not a difficult read. We communicate largely by the act
of communicating, he informs us in Talk Talk.
folk think you cant be any good if youre funny, or at
least youre more likely to be a better poet if youre not
funny. Because being good is serious, isnt it? At the very least,
you cant be both funny and good in the same poem. Finch would
disagree. Intelligence means having perspective and having perspective
means you have, or should have, a sense of humour. In fact he wouldnt
even disagree; hed politely demur that there isnt a discussion
to be had. In Lost, for example, he finds himself looking
in my mothers shed for a missing cat Ive never seen.
The set-up is well-observed melancholy. The rain on my back
like 1940 and / my fathers hat still on the door. The
ending conveys loss and a somewhat Pooter-ish isolation in perfectly-pitched,
unresolved humour. A cat skits along the bungalow ridge tiles.
/ Could be the one. Who knows.
Finch, if you see a random gathering of stones, your mind whirs away
kinetically in ways that the stones themselves do not. they
could build / a wall, a harbour, couldnt they? / they dont.
Only rarely does he drift into the sour. The uncharacteristic Meeting
her lover vents an anger that does not do the narrator, or us,
any good. His car is shit fast he tells me I / couldnt
give a damn. He heads quickly back to experimenting, innovating,
and we go with him. The second brick in particular sees Finch exploring
theories of consciousness, spacetime singularities, gravity and whether
or not a clock goes more slowly as it approaches lunchtime. This is
not someone who just writes about the view from city bookshops on
a rainy day; although there are plenty of those too.
have been edited by Andrew Taylor, who (slightly battleworn by what
a huge project this clearly was) introduced them at that launch a
few weeks back. This was quite an event a swish hotel, a livestream,
proper cameras and everything. Finch was interviewed by Ifor Thomas.
In terms of ebullience, anarchy and unpredictability, Thomas is the
equal of Finch. They also both share a curious inability to age.
a few writers in the room and you could hear the cogs whirring. But
where were all the would-be writers? Where were the students? Where,
in fact, were the young? I was among the youngest there and, whilst
I look terrific for my age, Im the wrong side of 47. You can
learn a lot as a poet from an hour in Peter Finchs company.
Imagining yourself as a piece of furniture. Wondering what inanimate
objects would do if they moved. Perspective on being stuck in human
form. Writing about big themes without being portentous, overblown
or egotistical. Perhaps some think Finch is inaccessible or just not
for them. How can I convince otherwise? Well, wet sky like a
moved photocopy is as near to a single-lined piece of brilliance
as I (or rather, Finch) can offer. In those six words we have remarkable
compression; an original image; rhythm; sound; and an evocation of
Finch is a
Cardiff poet, not a Wales poet. He is urban, and when he explores
the rural it is always as a visitor. That is not to diminish the achievement.
What poet would want the burden of representing a nation anyway? The
poet wants to explore the miniature in the world of the greater; the
ignored, the rarely or differently observed. Look at the mess people
get into when they become, oh I dont know, Poet Laureate or
something. Finch is specifically and proudly Cardiff, and the Welsh
fog that some reviewers find themselves (pleasurably) flailing
in is PeterFinchCardiff fog.
another critic suggested 15 years ago, Wales is Finchs adopted
land, despite having lived there all his life. His homeland is the
international one of Dada, surrealism and collage. Youre going
to find poems that will pass you by in these two collections, and
youll probably even find a few you actively dislike. It doesnt
matter. If you wont get on a plane because you dont understand
how it works, youll never go on an adventure. Plunge in, dont
worry about it too much and let the Finch hop about in front of you,
cock its head to one side, pin its beady eye on you and say yes, you
might feel a bit challenged when in a sudden flutter I land on your
knee but go with it.
in ripping things up and invention-as-fact gives the energy that powers
Finchs work and reputation. Jimi Hendrix never did wake up lost
on the island in the middle of Roath Park Lake by the way, despite
what the Western Mail might think Finch made it up. He is an
anarchist in a sharp suit, a punk with the safety pins attaching cultures
that are not usually stuck together. Sometimes this leaves the reader
confused; why call sequences of poems haikus if they dont have
17 syllables? And I am not the first to point out that Wales is not
bigger than Texas, as one of his most recent poems claims/argues/pretends/derides.
But no matter. Long may Finchs birdcall attract us from the
other side of the lake.
will happen to any poet when they have a huge and impressive body
of work to celebrate, Finch risks becoming unfashionable (if he has
ever been so, loaded as the word is with connotations of popularity
and short-termism). Contemporary poetry has changed so much in the
past decade or so, and it would be unfair to judge Finch against it.
With the exception of climate change, the themes that concern many
poets now our identities in a multicultural world, social injustice,
diversity and equality are not really touched on. But lets
not criticise a circle for being insufficiently triangular. Finchs
legacy is to create substance from nothing, to defy our knowledge
of decay and disappearance with vibrancy, sly humour and indefatigable
once said of the Velvet Underground that only a few thousand people
bought their first album, but everyone who did started a band. I hope
Peter Finch sells a million of these books, and I guarantee that (almost)
anyone will have an urge to start writing poems as they are reading.
Try it now. Heres a one-word poem from Finch. Whats yours?
Arts Review - July, 2022
Waling - Litter Magazine
Finch poem is
er no that doesnt sound quite right
Throughout this collection Finch
no, that doesnt seem
Generally, Finchs poems are characterised
Nope. That doesnt get us anywhere
thing about Peter Finchs poems is that there is no such thing
as a typical Finch poem. Well, thats better, but it really doesnt
cut the mustard either. One stream of Finchs poetry over the
years is the visual poetry, featured largely in the first volume but
a continuing interest throughout his writing career. Another is what
one might call process poetry, where one sets up a way of generating
poetic material and then manipulate it through a deliberate or chance
generated technique. Take, for instance, which starts out with a familiar
line from an R S Thomas poem: Just an ordinary man of the bald
Welsh hills, becomes a list of phrases around the theme of hills,
sheep sugar sha
shower shope sheep
shear shoe slap sap
grasp gap gosp gap
guest gap grat gap
a commentary on the media image of Wales. Somehow, he has gone from
rural Wales through sound poetry to cultural comment and personal
The surprising thing about this collection is that despite the strangeness
and difficulty of some of the poems, there is a very democratic spirit
to the whole kit and caboodle. You might think that a poem which consists
of a photocopy blur and daub might be off-putting and impenetrable,
but much of the time theres a real pleasure in them and a connection
with a readership (or perhaps a viewership) that is really inviting.
The poems from the Writers Forum book Dauber, for instance,
hint at then idea of haiku without telling you what to think and are
visually stunning as well.
Most of these nearly 1000 pages of poetry, however, are not visual
poems, and they vary between performance silliness like Modern Romance,
based on cut-up Mills & Boons novels:
To a personal
account of a visit to the urology clinic:
front of the internet
finding out where it came from:
recurrent urinary tract infection,
external beam radiation,
infection by parasite,
printer, painter, trucker,
rubber, chemical, textile,
metal, leather worker,
smoker (greatest risk),
dark tobacco, after that light,
then second hand.
male over fifty,
worse as you age.
From the first
poem, in the first volume (a delightful comment on 60s
activism), to the final poem of volume 2, a one-word poem dedicated
to Edwin Morgan, this collection is a delight. A gallimaufry. A compendium
of forms. A dictionary of discovery. A mixtape of marvels. A variorum
- August, 2022 - Litter
McDonald in London Grip
and hero of the Welsh avant garde, Peter Finch is a writer for whom
the phrase force of nature could have been invented. Come
to think of it, he probably invented it himself, or spliced it together
in a cut-up. Now in his mid-seventies, the shaven headed septuagenarian
feels more culturally relevant than ever, not least because of his
verve and iconoclasm. If, like him, youve an appetite for literary
subversion, youll find his double volume Collected Poems good
enough to eat.
begin at the beginning, so I will too. Like so many emerging poets
in the 60s, Finch was inspired by Ginsbergs Howl,
together with The Mersey Sound poets, McGough, Patten, and Henri.
Their writing gave him permission to exist outside the literary establishment,
and instilled a desire to create his own poetry magazine, the Second
Aeon, which launched in 1966. Initially little more than a showcase
for his own work, it ran for 21 issues, becoming hugely influential.
It brought him into contact with a broad range of writers, including
concrete poet Sylvester Houédard, proto-postmodernist Nicholas
Zurbrugg, and sound poets like Henri Chopin and Bob Cobbing. Their
influence can be seen in Finchs early works like Antarktika,
the visual score for, and transcription from a sound-text composition
made on a stereophonic cassette recorder, and Blats, a
collection of none poems, whose composition involves chance,
which, Finch reminds us in his original introduction, is the
natural order of things. Such experimentation is well represented
in both volumes of Collected Poems, which are characterised by Serens
high production values. One of my favourite visual poems from volume
one, for instance, is Walking, a tribute to the poet Eric
Mottram created by photocopying Mottrams Selected Poems onto
a single sheet and then manipulating the text. As Andrew Taylor tells
us, Finch then inserts Mottram himself into the new Snowdonia-like
textscape as a red dot. In the original publication, Finch avoided
the cost of colour printing by adding the red dots by hand, but Seren
has a bigger budget and a broader palette, and Mottram enjoys a more
permanent position on the printed page. Its a striking image
that Ive looked at so many times that my copy now falls open
to reveal a red dot ascending a mountain of semi-obliterated text.
pervades both volumes, but sits alongside a wealth of accessible material.
In one interview Finch says that, when it comes to a poets relationship
with the public, The trick is to avoid impenetrability and get
the balance right, and I think he manages to do that in much
of his writing. While he frequently covers difficult territory, and
some of his work is cryptic in the extreme, you cant help but
be struck by the creative intelligence behind it, and the sense that
he has our best interests at heart. Bob Cobbing had a word for Finchs
aesthetic verbivocovisual which is appropriate
in that, while you often need to see and/or hear his work in order
to fully appreciate it, much can be consumed in the usual way. Indeed,
the irreverence and intertextuality of Finchs visual poems and
cut-ups can be seen in his more conventional writing. Take, for example,
All I Need Is Three Plums, which, as you may guess from
the title, is in playful dialogue with William Carlos Williams. It
I have sold
your jewellery collection,
which you kept in a box, forgive me.
I am sorry, but it came upon me
and the money was so inviting, so sweet
and so cold.
I like the
way this exposes the moral implications of Williamss This
is Just To Say, forcing us to reflect on the nature of trust,
theft, transgression and forgiveness. It transforms the impact of
the speakers plea to be forgiven, and the language employed
to justify his behaviour. It closes:
me, I have taken the money
you have been saving in the ceramic pig
and spent it on drink, so sweet and inviting.
This is just to say I am in the pub
where I have purchased the fat guy from
Merthyr's entire collection of scratch and win.
All I need now is three delicious plums.
these things just happen.
I love the
jokey references to the original, like the delightful reworking of
the word sweet in the final stanza, Forgive me,
sweetie; it exposes the duplicity and latent hostility of Williamss
speaker, inviting us re-examine his professed contrition, reminding
us that confessions are narratives designed to excuse the penitent.
attitude to the literary canon is gloriously subversive, as can also
be seen in his text message reworking of Wordsworths Composed
upon Westminster Bridge:
'nvr saw nvr flt clm so deep!!!
rvr flws at hs sweet wll (own):
Deer GD! vry hses seem slp | |
+ all tht BIG HRT lyng still!
is indicative of Finchs playfulness, which is often overtly
comic: if youve ever seen him read youll know that humour
frequently combines with his infectious enthusiasm, making for powerful
and often hilarious performances.
As a psychogeographer,
Finchs principal interest is Wales, and particularly his beloved
Cardiff. He is the author of Real Cardiff 1, 2, and 3, together with
Real Wales, among other place-based books, and hundreds of individual
poems about the region. Again his poems about place range from the
experimental to the conventional; Wales-themed list poems abound,
for instance, such as The City Region, which lists Cardiff
street names, and Colon which presents a list of Welsh
battles. Im particularly fond of his Zen Cymru haikus:
leaks there isn't one
miss the homophonic pun, but theres more to it than this. To
me this poem is quintessentially Finchian, partly because of the humour,
and partly because of its unwillingness to be reduced to a single
meaning. The implication is that there isnt a definition of
Wales that doesnt leak, in the sense that the place
will always evade definitive descriptions. Finch persistently works
against definition: his writing, just like his favourite subject of
Wales, invariably refuses to be pinned down.
In his foreword
to the second volume, Ian McMillan relates an anecdote about once
inviting Finch to talk to a group of his students. McMillan told Finch
that the class needed livening up, which the latter clearly took as
a challenge. Having begun by reading a few conventional poems, Finch
produced a copy of a Mills and Boon book and began reading from that.
As he read he started tearing out the pages and eating them. McMillan
considers this a deep examination of the relationship of the
writer and the reader, the performer and the audience, which
seems like a fair point. The ultimate meaning of such experiments
remains elusive, of course, but the world is better for them. They
have driven Finchs art since the sixties, and while they dont
always find such radical expression as the literal consumption of
printed text, theyre rarely predictable, or boring. You might
say theyre what make both volumes of Collected Poems good enough
to eat, and at close to 1000 pages its a copious repast.
Grip - international online cultural magazine - August, 2022
Mills in Ellipitical Movements
Collected Poems is a two volume set, with volume 1 covering 1968-1997
and the second 1997-2021. Running to almost 1,000 pages it is, in
one sense, a monumental piece of work, as long as you dont conflate
monuments with the past, as Finch is going strong and apparently the
first collection for inclusion in volume 3 has already appeared. It
is too large a body of work to allow for a detailed reading in the
limited scope of a review, so what follows is a number of thoughts
provoked by reading these two books.
thing that strikes the reader is the incredible range of Finchs
work, from conventional lyrics through experiments in
sound and performance, to visual and concrete work, he is constantly
pushing the boundaries of what poetry might mean and of readerly expectations.
And he is the master of the formal mash-up, producing list poems in
prose that contain elements of found material and sound poetry, or
an anecdotal poem that dissolves into its constituent sounds, for
range enables Finch to make poems about nothing and everything:
be able to make a
of anything apple
should we are able
a poem (poem) out
shift taste made
out of it door
shift should we
to refuse to donate
out of shift anything
Here, as elsewhere,
the process of transposition (shift) is made visible, accessible even,
to the reader who is invited to inspect the workings of the poem.
None of this
should be taken to mean that Finchs poetry is aesthetic, is
art for arts sake; he is frequently, I might argue usually,
politically engaged, and this engagement moves through 1960s radicalism
to a disgust at the destruction of his native Wales under Thatcher
(she listened but did not hear) and a recurring evisceration
of arts administrators, corporate business speakers, and bullshitters
in general. See, for example, Words Beginning with A from the
Governments Welsh Assembly White Paper:
a a assembly
an assembly assembly assembly and assembly and assembly assembly
assembly assembly assembly annexes and arrangements assembly and
assembly affairs and authority accountability a achievement assembly
autumn assembly a affect an an assembly assembly assembly and
a alongside a an assembly assembly assembly allocate assembly
and and acts assembly assembly assembly administrative agriculture
a an annual and authorities and agency and authorities are accountable
address assembly and answerable across assembly assembly assembly
assembly assembly and arrangements are assembly assembly are assembly
agriculture and and and and arts and annex a assembly approval
assembly all after assembly assembly affairs and and assembly
assembly and a and account appropriate assembly acts and are acts
a assembly are assembly a authority and and able as and a assembly
authorities agencies assembly able assembly assembly and a and
and a a a assembly assembly and able able assembly about a assembly
and a assembly as appointments also and assembly assembly as assembly
assembly against as as able and authorities against and assembly
are a and a assembly assembly and assembly assembly a affairs
assembly authorities and and and and all and ahead and are across
and as assembly and assembly a attuned a agency and authority
authority and and and and and any agenda assembly a assembly able
a a a adopting assembly and and are a authority and afford an
ambitious and a an as as an and air and agencies assembly a and
administration agency a and assembly agency already an all and
and and agencies authority authority as a and and assembling and
authority are agency acquired and and address an a a across and
assembly and appoint agency a a assembly authorities at and agency
and a and an agency assembly assembly agency arrangements and
agency authorities a and attracting and and assembly action action
action and a and a assembly assembly agenda assembly at all agenda
assembly and and appointments also and are also a and a and an
authorities agencies and advice advice approximate a assembly
and at affairs annual a and assembly and actions assembly assembly
assembly and a administering assessment agency assembly assembly
assembly a are and agriculture aborigines advisory assembly and
adequate appropriate appropriate areas and approximate arrangements
are appropriate approximate appropriate arrangements and assembly
art assembly are arrangements approximate appricimate appropin
approximarly approximin approximit approximate appropinate appropriate
approlution approximate apprealin approling approf appross apprit
approx approximate appropriate arsembly approt approt apprit aparse
amprim arsenit arsenit arsenit arsenit arsenit arsenit arsenit
arsenit arsenit approximately assembly and arsen assembly all
art and agriculture agenda appropriately alltittle all al aswoon
apricot artle at assen ash arsenit assuitable assuage annual after
amiddle approximate appealment apparliament arprat aprat art arse
alltold approximate flatart anti anemia academic and averted arse
art all assembly anti any attitudenal arseweakness all appropriate
approximate approximate apripple affected arse affected all affected
and any affected apathy apathy and responsibility for ancient
monuments arses arses arses and wishing wells
Andrew Taylor and Nerys Williams, who provides the Foreword for the
first volume, refer to William Carlos Williams idea that a poem
is a small (or large) machine made out of words, which is apt
circumstantially as Finch reworks the American poets This
is just to say a number of times but more pertinently because
it points towards the central thread of Finchs poetic; that
language is material, and is the material of poetry.
This is as
apparent in the plain text poems as in the visual work.
On one level, its the focus on the hard particularity of words
in passages like this:
single file. Shellduck on the
groyne teeth, breakwater, boat ribs,
hard-core. the slope to the sea estuary
with a boulder skin rough as a navigators
allowing the levels to be a continuum, the simple beauty of the visual
In a number of poems he plays with paradigmatic relationships through
the use of brackets, as inn these lines from Fold:
(I) (you) were (werent) (wont) (will) a (the) (this)
(pointed sticks) (prime numbers) (purple patch0 taut
(tiled) (tight as fists) for (from) (frightened) (foaming)
fish) (wet fist) (wet fear); the (those) (these)
(hovering) (hollow) (high) (high) (high) (heated)
were (will not) (can not) (can) no
(neither) (normal) harder (holding) (heaving)
as barbers poles) (hard hosts) (home)
items create opportunities for multiple readings, multiple folds through
the poem. It is also typical of Finchs work that they create
and seem driven by patterns of sound, and that these have a timeless
quality, reaching back perhaps to the earliest poetry in Welsh and
(hollow) (high) (high) (high) (heated)
In an amusing
but useful note to the poem, we are told: (cant) (explain) (can)
(might) (read on) (cant being both a private language
In the late
1990s, two things happen; Finch begins to play with he haiku and his
sense of Welshness, already present as an undercurrent, becomes much
more central to the work. And I mean not just his own Welshness, but
some kind of exploration of what being Welsh might mean in the late
2oth century, post mining, post-industrial world.
Finch, there are visual haiku:
nn nnn n
nn nnn nan
n nn nnn nan
n nn non
nod to the forms great tradition:
the farmers sign
around this time Finch had learned Welsh but decided to continue writing
in English, but to my ears at least its an English with an increasingly
rydw i am
fod blydi i am
rydw i rody i
fod I am I am I am
rydw i yn
Pantycelyn Rhydcymerau Pwllheli yes
is an important figure whose presence recurs across Finchs work,
not just as a poet but as a kind of exemplar of varieties of Welshness:
In his work
are there traces of this place,
was born, reluctant, leaving
as he could? Do the streets of Cardiff echo?
dont. Do we honour him in this
a lost son? Plaque, statue, trail?
No we do
not. He wouldnt want them.
enough, us, for a man redolent of
and revolutionary fire.
cities are alien places.
to Thomas, the figures of Williams and Bob Dylan recur. There are
a number of reworkings of Williams famous This is just
to say, my personal favourite is this one from 2001 and included
in the Unpublished Poems section at the end of the second volume:
hv eatentplumat rein thicebox
youreprob savbreakForgive thy
sosw eet &socold wmcls m
There is so
much more that could be said, for example about his use of the list
form or the internet poems that work on the page but come to life
online. but Id like to close this review by going back to a
Twitter discussion on the nature of experimental poetry started by
Beir Bua Press while I was reading these books. What Finch, a determinedly
experimental poet, shows is is that this kind of work
is more formal than so-called formal verse in that it is constantly
in search of form, that it delights in failure, or the risk of failure,
because it knows that without that risk we are left with the comfortingly
numb, it is, in short, whatever you want it to be.
poems are a joy to read; so go read them
Movements, August, 2022
in Nation Cymru - Collected Poems Volume One
500 page blockbuster volume of Peter Finch's poetry is like setting
off an enormous box of fireworks.
Light blue touch paper, pause, don welder's goggles and then enjoy
the pyrotechnics, the magnesium flares of verbs, the sherbet fizz
of nouns, the crackling rockets of verse as they variously burst,
illuminate and flare.
And this is
only the first volume of his 'Collected Poems,' covering thirty years
of busy experiment, poetry making and general rule bending. It's involved
some diligent collecting, too as it gathers some material from special
limited issues and chapbooks which aren't easily available, thus giving
us the opportunity to consider the character, calibre and full range
of this restlessly entertaining poet over three decades of writing.
The engine room
His is a singular, special poetic voice and he certainly hasn't stuck
to the rules or followed the norms.
Peter Finch was working hard in the engine room of verse during the
so-called Poetry Wars of the 1970s - when conservative practitioners
battled the avant garde - and has kept on generating verse during
a much bigger revolution when online outlets disarmed the cultural
gatekeepers and poets found new audiences on the internet.
Throughout all this Finch was his own one-man poetry industry. He
notes that he is now 'taking advantage of my modernist upbringing:
finding that what I have been doing for thirty years is fashionable
again; watching others hijack old ideas and retread them as if they
were new and as if they were their own.'
Peter Finch doesn't want words to live calmly on the page, he wants
to stand and deliver them and has done so and still does so with great
elan and inventiveness.
I've seen him eat a Mills and Boon novel as part of his routine and
delight audiences with tongue-twisting, effervescent sound poems which
push poetry to the edge and then nudges it over.
'Push the idea on until it breaks, flowers or dissolves,' as he puts
it. And because he's done the circuit of readings and literary events
he can give sage advice to others who wish to perform their stuff
In "Advice for Perpetrators" he suggests: 'before beginning
smile/Before smiling locate the door.'
sometimes explore Wales and the Welsh landscape through an experimental
lens, thus allowing a bit of refraction and contortion. And fun too.
There's a fake biography of R.S.Thomas including two words which can
seem to sum up Thomas and his poetry - "Gospel. Austerity."
Finch's is certainly not a po-faced, reverential poetry: he's too
delighted in what's there when you rummage around the toy box of language
to stand too long in awe of the world or go full Wordsworth.
And he draws on material from many sources to inspire him.
He describes himself as a 'full-time poet, psychogeographer, critic,
author, rock fan and literary entrpreneur' and so we get nods to other
poets, mappings of places and spaces, sharp opinion, musical references
and stories about trying to sell poetry.
The volume includes some of Finch's greatest hits of course, such
as "Welsh Wordscape," the first part of which runs as follows:
To live in Wales,
Is to be mumbled at
by re-incarnations of Dylan Thomas
in numerous diverse disguises.
Is to be mown down
by the same words
at least six times a week.
Is to be bored
by Welsh visionaries
with wild hair and grey suits.
Is to be told
of the incredible agony
of an exile
that can be at most
a day's travel away.
And the sheep, the sheep,
the bloody, flea-bitten Welsh sheep,
chased over the same hills
by a thousand poetic phrases
all saying the same things.
To live in Wales
is to love sheep
and to be afraid
It's hard to read this popular poem without concluding that some things
The poems arrayed here include prose poems and experimental verse
that push individual words about as far as they can stretch: one poem
plays with the word "moon" so that it fills a whole bunch
The poem, "On Criticism," meanwhile, takes the form of various
pages from a work of (diplomatically unidentifiable) criticism all
scrunched up as if destined for the waste bin.
A poem such as "All I Need is Three Plums" is, in one sense,
a long apology, but what a funny one, mixing confession with self-derision
and nodding in the direction of William Carlos Williams as it does
so (Williams wrote a poem called "This is Just to Say" about
purloining some plums and Finch seems to steal the idea as if he's
reaching into the same fridge.)
A few sample stanzas captures the abject grovelling of it all:
I have sold your jewellery collection,
which you kept in a box, forgive me.
I am sorry, but it came upon me
and the money was so inviting, so sweet
and so cold.
I have failed to increase my chest measurements
despite bar bells
and my t-shirt is not full of ripples.
I am sweet but that is no consolation.
Your hand is cold.
I did not get the job, your brother did.
He is a bastard I told him, forgive me.
The world is full of wankers, my sweet.
I have lost the dog, I am sorry.
He never liked me, I am hardly inviting.
I took him off the lead in the park and
the swine chased a cat I couldn't
be bothered to run after him.
Forgive me, I will fail less in the
You will see from the above selection of stanzas that one of the hallmarks
of Finch's poetry is a sense of fun and it's not often you get to
read a poem which is laugh out loud humorous.
The fun can start with poem titles such as "Putting Kingsley
Amis in the Microwave" or in opening lines such as 'There are
three skinheads in the furniture department/Trying to shoplift a bed'
or by fashioning poems in which some of the words are replaced by,
say, the word 'Bighead' as in the poem of the same name, resulting
in such literary works as 'Taming of the Bighead' and 'How Bigheaded
Was My Valley.' Not that Finch is a bighead, far from it.
Finch can find material pretty much anywhere. He fashions one piece
from headlines found in monthly newspapers published for ex-pats and
people of Welsh descent in the U.S.A.
He formulates a sound poem to replicate the mechanical noises of a
Grip-vac, which I imagine is a sort of vacuum machine.
There is other shameless product placement too, such as 'The Perfect
St David's Day Gift' namely some foaming 'Felinfoel Welsh valley Shampoo/made
from real Welsh coconuts.'
It's always busy stuff on the page as in the mind. He creates an A-Z
of place names around the Severn estuary. He name checks a host of
poets, from John Tripp through R.S.Thomas and Thom Gunn to J. H. Prynne
and to his buddy in poetic exploration, Bob Cobbing.
He references plenty of music and musicians along the way, from blues
to jazz, from Philip Glass to Chubby Checker, the Shirelles to Lou
Reed, George Harrison to John Cooper Clarke. After all, all art aspires
the condition of music.
Restlessly, questioningly, adventurously Finch cuts up text and mangles
syntax. He finds the stuff of poetry whilst perusing the material
on an O.S map of the Brecon Beacons or in examining the components
of the overlooked landscape of the Wentloog Levels.
He does all this with both brio and bravura because Peter Finch is
a swashbuckling buccaneer in Welsh poetry who does nothing less than
take language for a ride. A rollercoaster ride.
His joy in doing all this is positively contagious. Celebrating the
pulse, rhyme and rhythm. Chancing it. Pushing language into all shapes.
Testing, testing, testing it until the line finally breaks.
17 September, 2022
in Nation Cymru - Collected Poems Volume Two
In the introduction to this second doorstop-sized selection of work,
the poet Ian MacMillan suggests that 'If and when the great poet and
performer Peter Finch reads this intro he'll stand up and sing it
in a falsetto voice which will be all the more startling and liberating
because he'll be on a mid-afternoon bus in Cardiff. He'll then sing
it backwards and then he'll just sing the vowels and then he'll just
sing the consonants. He'll encourage his fellow passengers to join
in and many of them will although some will get off before their usual
Macmillan goes on to imagine his fellow poet cutting up the pages
of his own book and rearranging the strips to make a new sense which
he dubs Finchsense. You get from this a real sense of the energy,
gusto and restless sense of invention which are typical of Peter Finch,
both as poet and performer, as editor and literary entrepreneur.
Indeed such is the energy of the man that Ian Macmillan suggests that
there is more than one Peter Finch and that all these Peters are working
to create many different kinds of poetry at the same time.
Those poems invariably have plenty of verbal crackle, snap and pop,
exuding a sense of fun and adventure. But in this second volume there
are more personal poems which map out some of the poet's life. A poem
called "Urology" evokes a visit to a hospital department
and yet manages to keep the Finchian/Finchist/Finchesque humour very
much alive as these sample stanzas demonstrate:
On the screen it's like miniature DynoRod
hunting my house drains
water running so it slides
headlamp camera scouring plunger
At twenty meters they found a ring-seal loose
have to dig that out.
On the notes when I browse them
while the nurse is out
the sketch looks like a sea anemone
still life: bladder with flower
done in biro
sideways on the urine analysis
Red cells present: too
many to number.
find the stuff of poetry pretty much anywhere. He doesn't need to
scale mountains or wait for visitations by the divine. One poem concerns
a cancelled trip with Winston Rees Travel. There's a poem made up
from "Words Beginning With A From The Government's Welsh Assembly
White Paper." There's a lot of stuff about Wales as you can see
in quirky titles such as "Llywarch Hen SMS with Fault,"
"Ysbwriel," Rhai Caneuon Cymraeg" and "Mid Period
Anglo Welsh Endings." In "The Student House" he just
calls round to his son's abode and finds a poem among the disorder:
We arrive through thin snow to
my son's student house where
no one has been for three weeks.
The ice has turned the air to knives.
I find a ketchup-smeared plate
frozen at 45 in the unemptied
kitchen sink. A river of lager
cans flows down the hall.
As I stamp into the lounge
keeping my feet alive the ghosts
of dust come up around me like
children. The stains across the
sofa look like someone has died.
Meanwhile a visit to a house in "Ty Draw" road in Roath
in Cardiff, where the poet had previously lived, brings with it a
different sort of disappointment:
Round the back where the past might
still congeal among the rust and residue
they've renewed almost everything.
I once painted my name on
the lane tarmac in front door green
but the rains have long washed it. In a life
how much do you have to do to outlive it?
They kept chickens next door and I
loved them but today no sound
A door opens and a face asks me
what I'm doing here where housebreakers
would walk. I say chasing the
past. I used to live here. Do you remember me?
He shakes his head.
But at the top of the hill there's
smoke from the train, still rising,
as it trucks its coal to the dockland sea.
I can see it, smell it, hear its gouts of grey
and black. Smuts. Steam. On and back.
I've written it now.
And you've read it. So, something remains.
In a smashing poem which follows the poet's odyssey into language
and effect called "Shock of the New" Finch asks 'How have
we got so far/On foot? Long hills full of light, /towers of distrust,
/the music of falling trees
'and explains how 'when we/began
it was a matter/of dealing with demons
'and goes on to detail
the tasks a poet faced, such as understanding the land or the human
condition and the challenges faced when 'Our educated peers outran
The poem ends by pondering 'Does much matter/when it all ends.' This
fine collection doesn't answer that question perhaps but shows us
with enormous zest and energy how much it does matter -as we go through
life - to be alert to it all, to the joyous, raucous possibility of
language, of paying sharp attention to what's around us and inside
Peter Finch enjoys revelling in verbs and making nouns fidget, cutting
up texts and even making brackets interesting. The two, huge volumes
of his Collected Poems show how he helped transform the poetic landscape
of Wales, set up crazy skyscrapers among the booths, how he shook
it all up.
19th September, 2022
for the Soul
poem "produced by writing through both volumes of Peter Finchs
Collected Poems (Seren, 2022), using the first and last lines of each
page, but selecting from them" Included in an edition
of Andrew Taylor's online magazine, M58.
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