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This article is taken from PN Review 236, Volume 43 Number 6, July - August 2017.

On Logbook Andrew Spragg
OF THE MANY ACCESS POINTS to Tom Raworth’s writing, Logbook (Poltroon Press, 1976) is one of the most inviting. A prose poem of ten pages, it rushes the reader with an opening that begins mid-sentence: ‘would have explained it.’ Would have explained what? Raworth is here and he’s already talking to us, unconcerned with the ceremony of beginnings, like you’ve just stumbled in. In some ways you will always already have.

The pace and syntax encourages a reading in a single sitting. The work tumbles along, a continuity fractured by several jump-cuts. Each page (numbered inside, and outside, of the text as 106, 291, 298, 301, 345, 372, 399, 444 and 453) seems to follow its internal logic, occasionally throwing out a call-back to an earlier detail or situation for the pleasure of it. The first page, we are aboard a ship, the second amongst natives who seem to know more than we care to admit:

‘Let us’, said one of the natives whose language we could speak, but imperfectly, ‘build from these trees a thing which we call a “ship” – from the wood remaining I will show you how to make “paper” – on this paper (once we set sail) I shall show you how to “write” (with a charred twig from the same tree) – and if your grandmother is with you, here’s how we suck eggs.’

Raworth is never unkind in his writing, though he is frequently wicked. He is not interested in telling you how clever you are, you can work ...


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