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Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to

This item is taken from PN Review 95, Volume 20 Number 3, January - February 1994.

Letters from Michael Haslam, Peter Daniels

As a poet, my responsibility for my reputation can seem to me to constitute a wearisome sort of burden, but I do appreciate, and am proud to accept, James Keery's accolade: one of 'the finest poets' under his wide-ranging review ('The Bloodsoaked Royston Perimeter'). If what he says is, in so far as such evaluation can be, true, then mine must be the responsibility to try to clarify a confusion about my published works that his generous review has already, almost inadvertently, caused. In good faith he has reviewed an unpublished title, but not an unpublished work. In detail, the continuation of my Continual Song, via Aleethia, that he reviewed a typescript of, under the title The Calder Cloughs, has not been published just as such, but forms, under the subtitle Three of My Chasms, three quarters of Four Poems (Something's Recrudescence Through to Its Effulgence), which has been published by Equipage, care of Rod Mengham, at Jesus College, Cambridge.

But the lines he quotes, about the shadow of a kestrel becoming like a crow among a field of starlings, were taken from a poem that had not been integrated into any version of, I reckoned, publishable works, but formed an offshoot to that writing. They had been appended to one copy of the tentatively-titled The Calder Cloughs, and dedicated to James Keery, in thanks to him as a reader for pointing out to me that a bird I had described as 'outlined like an angel' in a poem in my book Continual Song, must, by my own description, have been a kestrel, and not, as I had named it, a sparrowhawk. Such identifications I can't help but feel to be the most vital of any poetry's accuracies. At once I knew he was right, and I felt grateful and mortified. It's good to have reached such a visionary and perspicacious reader.

So the poem was, as this letter is, a maybe stilted attempt at textual rectification, quite unnecessary if none of this matters at all. I'm glad Jim liked the poem, but that liking couldn't simply resolve the awkwardness of the poem's originating occasion (a complex gratitude for textual rectification). Since then I've been trying to rework the poem, but without complete success. Perhaps you will reject the apparent ruse of my trying to publish an unsatisfactory poem guised within this letter, but it seems to follow, and here, at any rate, in its latest form, it is:

Subliminal Rectification with Thanks

Above the bridge, above the trees, Lumb Falls
and outlined like an angel hung a kestrel
Falcon, not a sparrowhawk (as claimed in OrientPearl)
at all. Above the bridge, beside the trees
above the fall at Foster Clough, outside my window
hangs the kestrel now while with a beat of wings
it falls away, I know how shy I've been beneath
these birds of prey who've held my fancy
in a dark debasement through
a number of small towns. Or ever since the day
I'd seen a waterfall spill over coastal down
to spatter on a rock, sway in the wind
and there had been a sparrowhawk
Accipiter, presiding something wild
and spirit-tribal, and its wings were frayed or
weren't so smoothly pointed as an angel's are, hung over
the range of my life's serious
and sexual choices; this can hardly be explained at all.

The kestrel angel as it falls away removes
its shadow from my eyes: I see
its shadow loping idly like one saddened
lorn black raggy in the picking field
of a starling band(my thought's
not damaged, but deranged, like when I married)
and becomes a shadow goblet on the glassgreen field
before it changes to a hand that waves itself away,

and I can give it a goodbye, as with a wish
I think it sort of takes events (I somehow
sort of thought) I somehow sought
the thought of thanks one might give quickly,
to the flit of augury
as if accepting what it meant.

If Jim is right about me, then this letter ought to be worth your space. If he's wrong, then, whatever, I reckon, there's no harm done.

Hebden Bridge

Ten Propositions


1)'Everybody is familiar with Schreiner's sketch of the old Holderlin, in leftprofile…' (Christopher Middleton, PNR 92).
2)'The effect is not unlike what seems always to have obtained in the case of Zbigniew Herbert: though few people have the necessary expertise to read the poems in the original language. ' (John
Pilling, PNR 93).
3)The circulation of PN Review is 2,000.* Whitaker's Almanac gives the world population (mid 1990) as 5,292 million. Depending on circumstances either of these groups may be called Everybody.
4)The population of Poland (not counting Polish diaspora) is given as 38.9 million people: a large proportion will have enough 1) intellect and 2) Polish to read a poem by Zbigniew Herbert.
5)Every schoolboy knows that anyone ignorant of the school shibboleths will be made to feel small.
6)Every schoolboy is taught that the world is larger than the school playground
7)Every PNR reader can fully describe at least one portrait of every great European poet.
8)Every PNR reader will tell you how Polish was devised by dons from Mars, for the composition of poetry.
9)There is a well-known sketch by Schreiner of the old Hölderlin, in left profile.
10). in the case of Zbigniew Herbert . few English-speakers have the necessary expertise to read the poems in the original language.


*British Council, British Literary Periodical, 1990.

This item is taken from PN Review 95, Volume 20 Number 3, January - February 1994.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to
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