The Falls by Clive Wilmer


“Clive Wilmer’s first book since his Selected Poems of 1995 is as seamlessly constructed as the poems themselves. It includes the sonnet ‘A Baroque Concerto’: which could be a subtitle for the entire collection: DOl only is Wilmer’s style: cool, formal, crisp and energetic, but he divides the volume into three eon lasting ‘movements’.

The first (chiefly erotic in its themes) opens with a clear call to the Muse: ‘Who are you that have stepped into the light I so need, I that goddess seems the word’. There follow several love poems, some lithe voyeuristic pieces and a couple of Browningesque blank verse monologues. The middle – long, slow, elegiac – movement is ‘In Memory of Graham Davies, Psychotherapist’ and very much the heart of the book, as revealing of the poet as of its subject. It is beautifully placed, picking up on the earlier mood.

In the brisk final movement there are shorter, freer poems on Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Fernando Pessoa, W. S. Graham, Olivier Messiaen and a grand fugue – ‘The Falls’ itself – to complete the work. This title sequence, about Niagara presumably (dedicated to the aptly named Jim Spates), becomes effortlessly symbolic in the way that waterfalls have tended to from Wordsworth to William Carlos Williams, both of whose ghosts can be glimpsed behind the spray:

immutable change
made and remade laws finer than any known of men from things made
being seen and understood
the invisible things each frill and fibre
eternal power.”
John Greening, Times Literary Supplement, April 27 2001

 

“Clive Wilmer’s poetry has always meant a lot to me –for its unfaltering clarity, for its delicacy of execution and weightiness of statement.”

Thom Gunn