Eoliths, Peter Rafferty.
£6.95 UK post free. (ISBN 978-0-9540913-2-3) Arrowhead Press, 70 Clifton Road, Darlington, Co. Durham, DL1 5DX
Peter Rafferty — both a Carlisle Utd supporter and "a full-time Italophile" (does he, one wonders, think of the San Siro as the Brunton Park of the South?) — has a good feel for the physicality of things, and is capable of translating the palpable into word-forms of fluidity and vigour. Equally at home in the Apennines, where he observes that "..the soft clack of sandals on cloister flags / has stowed to a shuffle", and nearer home where he tells us how he "..ransacked the air / by the raggy sand cliffs" in search of signs of the late martins' arrival, he too often drifts from his strongest territory towards more abstract flights in which he fails to ground his ideas in either sufficient hard matter or with sufficient coherence to convince the reader that the verse is the vehicle of exploration rather than the versification of a pre-conceived idea. In this mode his verse forms become either too slack (Paradise Feathers) or inanimately conventional (Under Starter's Orders, The Dovedale Hoopoe).
His best pieces occupy a middle ground of more natural phrasing enlivened by a more thorough engagement with the tactile core of his ideas. In the title poem, he tracks from near-geological time into a near-contemporary aesthetic with elegance and invention:
"...gravels and roots have smothered the camp fires
of the voices, muffled across dark years,
like an old delta bluesman on a chipped 78
who cries to be heard over the crackle."
More of this next time, please.
Reviewed by Peter Armstrong in Other Poetry 22