Somebody asked me recently why, having published poems in magazines and anthologies since 1980, I have waited until 2018 to publish a book. Certainly, I could have continued to rely on the kindness of journal editors until I was no longer able to write, but for the past 15 years it has seemed to me that the poems themselves called out to be gathered.
Looking back, the poem 'Cherry Time', first published in 2004, brings out some of the preoccupations that were pushing me in this direction: fatherhood, home-building, loss, the nature of time, knowledge, memory. Most of the poems in this book have been written since then. Some reflect on early life, or on the mysteries of parenthood, others mourn the loss of family members or friends, or register the wonder of some event or natural phenomenon. Still others are concerned with a notion of translation – in its broadest, protean sense – as a living current of preservation through transformation. Some of the poems themselves look like versions of work by writers in various other languages ('after' Montale, Su-Tung-Po, Yves Bonnefoy and so on), but such poems build solely on a phrase or two of an existing poem, and, judged by any conventional criteria, would not be allowed to call themselves translations. In the end it is not for me to decide what these poems are about. In truth, they were not written 'about' anything at all. They have their origins in what the philosopher Ernst Bloch called "the darkness of the lived moment", and have hopefully preserved something of that darkness while, through writing rather than purpose, becoming something else again.
Iain's new book, The True Height of the Ear, is published on 31 July 2018