Michael Glover's Books
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The best poetry takes your mind to unexpected places. But is it the poet's quirkiness that carries you there, or your own?
These poems are too good to be just for children — grown-ups will enjoy reading them aloud to children for their own sake, as well as for the reaction they provoke. Or why not just read them to yourself? They will challenge and stimulate, make you laugh and make you wonder.
Come along with us: who's fastest, you or the wind? Or can you keep up with how fast life runs? What is the symbolism of that chocolate house? Did the poet even know, or is that for the inner child to decide? Ruth Dupre’s marvellous paintings make it a visual feast too.
Poems of Praise, Awe and Perplexity by:
Wendy Cope, Rowan Williams, John F. Deane, Alison Brackenbury, Thomas Hardy, John Donne, Phyllis Shand Allfrey, D.H. Lawrence, W.B.Yeats, Christina Rossetti, Penelope Shuttle, Kevin Crossley-Holland, Ben Jonson, and many others...
What has the loss of a pair old trousers to do with the inflammatory politics of Ireland? Did Nellie accept that invitation to share a bed with a nest of devils? Why must the disappearance of a mere purse hang over Anna like the shadow of a betrayal? And where is the best place for any head to settle?
Michael Glover's first published collection of short stories, several of which were first broadcast on BBC Radio Three and Radio Four (Brian Cox, star of the award-winning Netflix series Succession, was the reader of Morrison's Trousers) is by turns tender, perplexing and horrifying.
The Trapper they called him, that man Joseph Tredinnick,late of Porthcothan Bay, Cornwall- and, my god, what an inhospitable spot that was in those days!
This is a dark, Gothic tale about a Cornish misfit by the name of Tredinnick: a rabbit trapper by trade, and a trapper of souls. It is part horror story, part phantasmagoria - you will be dragged against your will to witness his descent into madness, and start to question what is real and what is not.
Inspiration is an elusive beast. When you go looking for it, it hides. Turn your back, and it can jump out at you. The first poem in this collection was inspired by an image, snapped or staged, of three ordinary folk. It captures a fleeting moment in lives with complicated back stories. Further poems followed, from images real, or in the poet's mind. In poems of a few lines, Michael Glover captures those stories, conjures up the images afresh, and leaves you with more questions than answers. If we truly observe rather than let life pass us by, we will see stories all around us - snippets of lives well, and not so well, lived.
On holiday in France, during a particularly warm spell, the exotic bugs descend. Many would reach for the citronella candles, or worse - the fly-swat and toxic aerosols to go on a killing spree like some insecticidal maniac. Not so an artist like Ruth Dupré. Instead she recorded their characters, their quirks, their oddities, in ink onto delicate Japanese paper.
Coming to these pictures later, Michael Glover was taken back to those heady summer days, and this collection of poems - of artfully chosen words about those wingers, leapers and creepers - was the result. Each poem is accompanied by one of the original monoprints.
Wingers and Leapers and Creepers is a homage to all bug-life: the true rulers of the world, upon which we, and all life on Earth, depend. Perhaps we can learn to love them a little more...
Some of the images from the book:
Old words never come easy. In his new collection of poetry, Michael Glover celebrates the unexpected arrival in his life of a fabulous Harlequin-Fish, plays fast and loose with the dyspeptic ghost of the poet Thomas Gray (author of ‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’), spars and spats with an absent god called Gottlieb, meanders through the aftermath of an old man’s sad encounter with Cupid, and wonders what a stone might say if it ever encountered Amelia in all her ferocity.
Why should children have all the picture books? Artworks by Ruth Dupré complement beautifully the verse and prose of Michael Glover in this book you will want to possess for the sheer sake of possession, as much as for the journey it will take you on. It is the story of a woman losing her grip on a life well lived, as past and present meld with real and imagined. The words convey mood like an adagio; images appear in your head as though through a fine gauze. You will feel you have learned something important by the end.
The Book of Extremities is a unique piece of writing: dark and haunting, making you question the nature of fiction, alongside beautiful photographs juxtaposed with the text. The author purports to have put the text together from a collection of fragments of a French priest's emotional outpourings, found on separate pieces of paper.
This collection brings together the best of Michael's Sheffield poems in one book – some of them were written many years ago, the last of them turned up very recently. That is how it is with poems. They just turn up – like uninvited guests. Or like old friends. How fresh the past comes to seems as you grow into your life! Almost more vividly present than the present itself, which can be a little hazy and undependable by comparison.
Photographs of Sheffield life accompany the poems.
In this poignant sequel to Headlong into Pennilessness, Sheffield-born Michael Glover, poet and art critic, re-visits the scenes of his childhood and teenage years in and around Fir Vale.
He remembers the death of the Sunbeam Cinema, and how it disappeared in a pother of brick dust. He sees again the tramps from the tramps’ ward, hurrying down Herries Road in pursuit of a warm sleeping spot in the Reference Room of Firth Park Library. He watches his mother at her exasperating daily ritual of putting her hair into pink curlers to the general indifference of the entire family, who all co-exist, somehow, in that hot little kitchen in Coningsby Road, site of perpetual warfare between snapping relatives, as the homework gets down, somehow, on the kitchen table covered in its slippery oil cloth.
Michael brings characters to life with humour and affection, and reflects on the inevitability of change and breaking free from family ties.
"I've been enjoying your poems very much : intriguing, intricate and always inventive. Such astute attention to detail often containing small revelations. Measured but full of surprises; confident, assured lines that engage but also leave room to ruminate. A rich and rewarding collection."
- David Charleston, Poet
This volume contains the original French text plus an exciting new translation by poet Michel Glover. It is not a translation in the truest sense - where word for word it is changed from one language to another. It is more a translation of the meaning insofar as that is ever possible, an attempt to capture the emotion, of one poet talking to another across the centuries. A valuable resource for any student of Rimbaud.
See below for a review of the book.
Burning Up Rimbaud
The poet John Birtwhistle reads Michael Glover's new, off-beat version of One Season in Hell (Une Saison en Enfer)
That iconic image of the sensitive young Rimbaud (you know the one), replicated like a celebrity Warhol silkscreen print in lipstick colours: such is the affectionate, cheerfully satirical cover with which Michael Glover announces this charming collaboration. It is an assured job of book-making, but one that quickly spells trouble.
The French and English texts, each with its cleverly distinct style and medium of illustration, do not open in the normal respectful manner of an original with its version opposite. No. In this format, the two languages rush towards each other from opposite ends of the book, as though into collision. To make the slightest comparison between them, you have to keep literally turning the whole thing upside down. It is Rimbaud not en face but bouleversé. Which is all too apt, if this is the kind of quasi-translation that makes you want to revive the custom of book-burning by the public hang-person.
We can’t say we’re not warned: the very first word of the title shocks my schoolboy French as a howler. Une Saison en Enfer, invariably translated as ‘A Season in Hell,’ here becomes One Season In Hell – that is to say, just one playfully alternative Hell, just one version of the Rimbaud, or just one season in the infernal calendar. A possibility of the indefinite article in French is exploited to subvert, yet comment upon, its usage in this case.
As a literary procedure, this comes with the anarchic authority of Ezra Pound, whose off-translations have purveyed such abundant grist to the pedantic mill. (Pound’s free version of the Anglo-Saxon poem The Seafarer is a better example than his assaults on Rimbaud.) Hence we can expect Michael Glover to risk the Poundian licence of anachronism, vernacular and even dialect colloquialism, as well as sudden idiosyncratic vehemences that can feel like Rimbaud with a dash of Rambo. True, Shakespeare was the son of a glover, but who does this man think he is?
So each of us has to find a way of reading this re-make, and of responding to its energies.I started with the French in mind, but soon got entangled in the political and class nuances of the Bad Blood section. When I came back, I thought I'd just tackle it as though a new poem sui generis. As such I found much to enjoy, despite the odd sudden regret such as the gender lost from the villageoises who become mere ‘village people.’ But that detail comes when, like aria from tense recitative, the delirious original breaks into verse, and there Michael Glover commands our confidence.
Strangely, one of the advantages of his method sometimes lies in his being not a little less ’natural’ but more literal than the customary translations. One sentence of Rimbaud’s is often taken as a modernist slogan: Il faut être absolument moderne. But, because this construction does not go easily into English, many translators compromise its superb impersonality. ‘One needs to live utterly in the present,’ advises Mark Treharne, as though an apostle of mindfulness, or perhaps taking moderne in the sense apparent in the section Délires II where it just means contemporary, like a fashion. ‘One must be absolutely up to date’ – Norman Cameron. ‘We must be absolutely modern’ – Wallace Fowlie. I would rather trust Glover’s faithful and severe laying down of the law: ‘It is necessary to be completely modern.’ And that goes, amongst many other things, for our reading and translation of Rimbaud.
This entertaining book may cock a snook at Rimbaud’s celebrity, but celebration is there none the less. That creaking sound, like the movement of a long-rusted gate, could be the poet turning in his Ardennes grave, or it could be his reluctant laughter.
There is always a moment – it comes to all of us, irrespective of race, class, religion and all the other what-nots – when you take someone aside and point out everything – everything that has gone wrong. And there is always so much of it, and it takes hours, days, of patient recitation, probably from a book, because it is far too long and involved – like a twisty rope, left out too long in the rain, behind the house, you know it, you have seen it with your own eyes – to commit to memory, even for an old hand such as myself. You completely and utterly exhaust yourself in the doing, you end up speechless, breathless, spent. I do anyway. One cannot walk away from one’s nature.
In this monologue of a mind's slow dying, an actor, man of abundant words, faces his final audience: of himself. It is a face that he barely recognises through the mist of his own tragic decline...
This is Michael Glover's most wide-ranging and accomplished collection of poetry to date.
On the surface, Michael Glover's poems can be lightsome and almost casually, if not beguilingly, playful and direct. But the playfulness can be a deception. Laughter dries on the tongue. There is often a terrible uncertainty about the speaking voice, and a darkness about the themes the poems are exploring – the sands are forever shifting.
This collection draws on a variety of themes and situations. The Quinoa Cake Recipe emerges from, and is a response to, long summer stays in Canada. Notes to Harris is a series of short poems in which one North American friend addresses another with a wry casualness. Under the Influence, a homage to the director John Cassavetes, spoken by a male character from a typical Cassavetes film, wayward and anguished: 'I am a raging bull of a man. I pulverise everything I look at.'
The great Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca was assassinated by Franco's Falangists in an orchard outside Granada in 1936. This book of poems by Glover is a lament for his death and a tribute to his extraordinary lyrical gifts, as spoken by his imagined lover.
It conjures, fleetingly, poignantly, the irrepressible gusto of Lorca's life: his gifts as a pianist, the dancing humour of his poetry for children, the street life of his beloved Granada, his brutal and incomprehensible death. Above all, it interrogates Death itself for its bewildering decision to snatch him away at the height of his powers.
"I can’t think what possessed you to set out on so quixotic a journey, but you seem to have arrived at a kind of poetic justice for Lorca. That is to say, you have bestowed upon him the lover he never had.
I think of him in those intense Granada years, thronging with avant-garde musicians and poets and gypsies, falling in love with one or another of them but never to his fulfilment. It must have been agony being Lorca, tormented by his sexuality and rebuffed in his passion for Dalí and Perojo... And in truth it would have been a dreadful agony being a lover of Lorca’s if he ever really had such a one.
Not that the lover you’ve found for him is particularly erotic; but rather a disembodied interlocutor or ideal muse who is speaking gently to Lorca’s ghost in a distant Elysium where literary heroes are crowned with true fame. That is a perfectly reasonable convention.
Even the brutal injustice of his death is curiously refined by your tribute. It occurs to me that the refinement of Lorca’s murder is in the tradition of martyrdoms - of the crucifixion itself - where the painter must choose to depict either the carnal agony or the transcendental meaning.
What seem to me the best of your Lorca poems address the oddity of your whole project: intimate yet decorous; affectionate yet disconcerting."
- John Birtwhistle, Poet.