A Poets’ Correspondence (VI): Rowan Ricardo Phillips and Glyn Maxwell

This summer, in our digital edition Little Star Weekly, we inaugurated an ongoing series, a correspondence on poetic means in the English of here and there (England and the UK) by Rowan Ricardo Phillips and Glyn Maxwell

Read Glyn’s first installment in Little Star Weekly here  and the ensuing correspondence here in our diary.

Here is letter #6.  

Dear Glyn,

Damn. What an ending! What an exit! What’s left to say? What’s left to say now that Glyn’s gone? I feel suddenly like the ditched voice left to pick up the pieces at the very end of “Lycidas”: “Thus sang Glyn Maxwell to the Oaks and rills / While the still morn went out with Sandals gray …” You are one smooth swain, my friend.

I’m struck by how our chat reveals how that which to an ear would seem the root of our differences, our respective “accented” voices, is actually the hearth from where our devotion to poetry takes root: the sonic sanctity of a poem. I live by the syllable; I can’t help it. Poets find other poets, truly find them, in the pit of the poet’s music. So why then this continual “You’re from there, I’m from here; let’s call the whole thing off”? We’ve seen how rock, pop, the blues, ska, and hip-hop have each grown in America and Great Britain tethered to the same taproot. And before that the border ballads became American ballads. The Atlantic couldn’t shout them down. When you live with poems syllable by syllable you start to hear how our multifoliate language mocks the meager differences between the poetry of America and the poetry of Great Britain, gent lung you into a greater republic … but when we gaze across the Atlantic in search of poetry we tend to see Scylla and Charybdis. We chose the path that leave us to deal with the fewest casualties. Bearable losses. And then we wish we could remember the name of that poet from Plymouth or that poet from Providence; that poet from Essex or that poet from Austin. There’s no cure for this but to be aware of it; to pass by Scylla when going in one direction and then Charybdis when going in the other. You still lose some people on the way and seem ever the fool for the trip. But there’s a feeling far greater than discovery or confirmation in searching for your kin across the water: and that’s finding in the unfamiliar the unexpectedly familiar; the fresh woods instead of Fresh Fields and, despite disaster after disasters, new pastures.


Read the rest of the correspondence here.

Rowan Ricardo Phillips’ second book of poems, Heaven, appears this month. Glyn Maxwell’s most recent book is Pluto, and his Collected Poems came out in 2011.




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