Tom Raworth, As When
Miles Champion, Ed.
(Carcanet Press, 2015)
Tom Raworth’s poetry is one of the great and pure pleasures of the contemporary literary landscape. It is writing that gets its work done quickly and cleanly, is neither didactic nor “difficult,” and stimulates the mind as much as the eye and ear. As When spans Raworth’s writing of some fifty years (1963 – 2013), and from first page to last, it is clear that padding out the poem has never been an option: Raworth’s movement through time is toward ever-greater compression—a restless homing-in on a perceived center he has described as “pure politics.” Of his process, he has written: “My ‘method’ is the essence of simplicity. I write down fragments of language passing through my mind that interest me enough after thought has played with them for me to imagine I might like to read them.” The resulting poetry combines a lyricism shorn of self-regard with an all but transparent receptivity to the voices. It is writing that inhabits the present as fully as art allows; that it is also built to last—is literature, of an absolute quality—is not the least of Raworth’s extraordinary achievements. Jack Kerouac may have been “the last to try to get all the way round before the bell rang for time,” as Raworth suggests in a 1971 letter to Edward Dorn, but it is Raworth who takes the decisive step further, realizing that “the shortest distance between two points is to be everywhere.” That scattering, as Dorn was quick to point out, is a realism.
[From the introduction.]
Miles Champion's Eventually is published by The Rest Press.