Saturday, February 02, 2008

Roy Fisher

I've been enjoying teaching a final year course set out by Tony Lopez here at Plymouth University. Essentially the course design consists of placing two poets alongside each other; how do they compare? What can we learn form each of them?
Thom Gunn and Rosemary Tonks kicked off the show, bracingly enough. Then came Philip Larkin and Roy Fisher.
Larkin was a fine way in to Fisher. I believe Tony is intrigued by the hiden religiosity of both men. For me, Larkin was the perfect route into Fisher, like stepping from a train station and into a country lane. I could breathe again as new horizons opened out.
Larkin has his moments of epiphany, grand moments in which nature cuts some ineffable dash, but generally he seems so constrained by the rigours of his own attitudes and opinions. His poetry strikes me as some yearning to escape from the trap of being Phillip Larkin.
Fisher, on the other hand, writes from the other side of identity. He is aware of the Larkin trap. As he writes in 'The Poplars':
All I have done, or can do
Is prisoned in its act;
I think I am afraid of becoming
A cemetery of performance.

Fisher's isn't a pinpoint perspective from which to view the world. His poetry is some sort of prism through which the perceived world and his active observation of it are joined.
My blog's gone fairly quiet in 2008. I could fairly put it down to work, but another clue comes from further lines from Fisher's 'The Poplars' and the degree to which they resonated with me. It sounds stark, but it's far from despair. It's stepping back, daring to be still rather than charging toward the next ambition:
I need to withdraw
From what is called my life
And from my net
Of achievable desires.

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