‘Sometimes you read collections that in their ambition and concerns alert the mind to the possibility of obtaining a new perspective on what else is being written all around us and this book is such a collection …’
These words written by the poet Paul Stubbs, announce to an English readership the power, originality and rare visionary elements to be found in this remarkable debut collection from a gifted poet.
The poems gathered here under the title ‘Glaciation’, a poem itself inspired by Shelley’s masterful distillation of alpine scenery in ‘Mont Blanc’, are concerned with a world precariously close to extinction. Stone sets out with only language to meet this catastrophe and from the daunting inescapable truths faced by modern man, suggests a potential existential transcendence via poetic metaphor and striking physical imagery. This poet is also concerned with the nature of melancholy, a ‘creative’ un-nihilistic melancholy handed down to Stone from other writers and artists with whom he shares a fraternal empathy. These support ghosts who seem to continue more fervently through death their heroic struggles with the rational goliath, make their entrances and exits throughout the collection, interspersed with poems culled from the coastal ledges of England, notably the wild and unspoilt stretch of coast between Hartland Point and Bude in North Devon, ‘The Wreckers Coast’, one of the last havens which for Stone are clinging on (just) in the face of an ever accelerating sterile and tyrannically functional modernity. By contrast Stone also draws on his native Suffolk and particularly the lonely coast of shingle spits and heather clad cliffs of mysterious enclaves such as Dunwich and Covehithe, made more visible in recent times by the writings of W.G. Sebald, but also long a sanctuary for earlier solitaries such as Edward Thomas and Fitzgerald. ‘Greyfriars’ and ‘In Boulge Churchyard’ for example evoke a tender, mournfully nostalgic Suffolk landscape that is shy to show itself and garners its essence before signalling to the right receiver. In a poetry world which seems to eschew risk and ever trumpets the easily accessible, these distinctive poems are then as Paul Stubbs rightly asserts ‘as authentic as they are necessary’.