Monthly Archives: February 2017

Sabotage reviews our new book.

To Have To Follow by Julie Maclean & Terry Quinn

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Reviewed by Charlie Baylis –

To Have To Follow, a pamphlet of twenty four poems, is the result of a collaboration between Julie Maclean and Terry Quinn, two writers who “come from similar worlds; both born in England in the fifties and both travellers and poetry lovers.” Though they wrote To Have To Follow together, Terry and Julie are separated by thousands of miles, as Julie lives in Australia and Terry in Lancashire. The names Terry and Julie remind me of the couple in ‘Paul Weller’s favourite song’, Waterloo Sunset by the Kinks (“Terry meets Julie, Waterloo Station every Friday night.”) which is fitting, as Waterloo Sunset (originally written as Liverpool Sunset) belongs to, and is emblematic of, Maclean and Quinn’s baby-boomer generation.

Their jointly penned foreword evokes a certain romance: “winning that prize [the Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Prize] and launching our books together in the Black Country that same year put us on the same page. We continued writing to each other, sharing ideas about poetry, publishing and the weather.”. A poetry pamphlet is without doubt the most divine product of love between two poets (whether that love is platonic or romantic). Though all of the poems in the pamphlet were written as response pieces, in the final two, Maclean and Quinn’s lines of longitude and latitude are inseparable:

From under an old army blanket
we watched the sun rise over Friars Heel
before high wire and solstice porn ruined our Druid fantasy
[from ‘Stonehenge in the Ley of the Dark’ [Maclean]]

a hidden track
Stonehenge by moonlight
the finding of a tump
[from ‘Curious’ [Quinn]]

I really like how uninhibited Maclean is: ‘solstice porn ruined our Druid fantasy’. Writing such absurd, potentially embarrassing details somewhere so sacred is brave; dare I say it, there is not enough solstice porn and Druid fantasy in contemporary poetry. Of the two poets, Maclean strikes me as the more imaginative: there are some outrageously silly moments in ‘Emily Dickinson as an Octopus with a Pre-death Plan’ (title worthy of a prize alone) and ‘Walking with Joan Didion in Central Park’, where:

Armoured in a meteor of bangs
she shifts through ragged spans
of Manhattan schist happy to return
to the Angel of the Waters

It’s always good to see more ink spilled on Joan Didion; most of it seems to be soaked up by male poets of the New York School. In contrast to Maclean’s abrasive, highly entertaining, delirium, Terry Quinn’s poetry is quieter and more reflective. His descriptions are nicely metered and evocative:

textiles bending and
sine waves breaking on
shores of smooth grey bark
[from ‘that New Idea’]

This follows the contours of the British literary canon, from which I would pick out Larkin and Geoffrey Hill as his most pronounced influences. Quinn is a gentle soul:

in the local Odeon
watching Casablanca
at midday on a Monday

and I am alone
[from ‘On not being there’]

In moments like these it is very easy to relate to Quinn, although his poetry is not as fun as Maclean’s: it doesn’t turn me on in the same way, though I am sure fans of more cerebral verse will find much to savour.

It is a beautiful thing that Terry has found Julie and it is a beautiful thing that Julie has found Terry. Furthermore it is great that they are sharing and writing about their experiences. To Have To Follow is a touching and sweetly-penned poetry pamphlet. I will leave the last lines of my review to Ray Davies of The Kinks:

Terry and Julie cross over the river
where they feel safe and sound
and they don’t need no friends
as long as they gaze on Waterloo sunset
they are in paradise

 

Review of my collaboration with Terry.

To Have to Follow: Julie Maclean & Terry Quinn, Indigo Dreams

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Collaborations between poets are interesting and, in the age of the internet, becoming more popular between poets from different countries. In this case, the collaboration comes from two writers who have certain things in common (they were both born in England and share a love of poetry and travel) but now live thousands of miles apart – Julie Maclean from the Surf Coast of Victoria, Australia, and Terry Quinn from Lancashire in England.

Malcean and Quinn were joint winners of the Indigo Dreams inaugural Geoff Stevens Memorial poetry prize, with their collections being published in 2013. After launching their books together they remained in contact, and then decided to start using each other’s poems as triggers. This collaborative pamphlet contains 24 poems, (12 by Maclean and 12 by Quinn), written as response pieces. In each of the pairings Maclean’s poems appear first, which suggests that Quinn is always the responder – but this need not necessarily be the case. The way the poems are set out means that we will never know.

The title sounds like a fragment from a sentence suggestive of “I am going to have to follow that with this” or, in the context of food, the dessert that follows on from the main course. Even when the phrase appears in the very last poem it is still somewhat elusive in terms of its meaning – a man following a woman into a medieval building.

The content is global in its reach: there are references to planets, oceans, seas, continents, countries, geology, glaciers, the Ice Age. The images on the cover are redolent of travel and exploration. Some of the locations are firmly grounded in England: Stonehenge, Bristol, Birmingham; sometimes they are more specific such as a cinema or a dental surgery. Other locations are harder to pin down with any certainty. There are literary references to RM Ballantyne, Thomas Hardy, Lewis Carroll, Robert Louis Stevenson, Joan Didion and Emily Dickinson.

Stylistically, Maclean and Quinn are poles apart. Maclean is the more elusive whereas Quinn’s poems are grounded in the everyday. Maclean is the more daring. In ‘Garuda’ – the title is a reference to a Hindu demigod who is part man and part bird – she writes:

 

At the end, once I’d arrived, swallow from the south,

I barely recognised my bird father. It was his pecked look.

 

The ribs of his cage beat a hymn rhythm on his heart.

 

It wouldn’t stop, like some wind-up toy you tire of,

like the long-time sick and dying.

 

His djembe throat drummed on while I sat and held his

featherless wing.

 

Maclean’s “Brief Encounter Poet to Poet” is a visual poem that describes half a circle or half a globe, which is almost the distance between them.

Quinn’s poems are spiced with a quiet, erudite wit. They are gems waiting to be discovered. Poems such as ‘The Rules of Detection’ which is split into five parts headed up by the questions Who / What / When / Where / Why? and ‘Statements of Accounts’ are cleverly written with attention paid to detail. The poem ‘Seven Seas’ which is set in a dental surgery is equally well-crafted:

 

This shouldn’t be difficult

North, Irish, Black,

and I’m just relaxing

as the problem of the Atlantic

springs to mind

 

I open my mouth

just a bit wider

should I move my tongue

or leave it like Italy

dipping into the Med

that’s another …

 

Finding the connections between each pair of poems is half the fun of reading them. Sometimes they can be found in the titles; in one instance the words in the last line of the first poem become the title of the next poem. Sometimes it is the time of year, or a theme. Occasionally it is a phrase or even a single word that is repeated across poems, a literary reference, or a particular feature in the landscape that is picked up on. The links are subtle and not too obvious, and this is one of the strengths of this collection.

Neil Leadbeater

 

Julie Maclean and Terry Quinn, To Have to Follow, Indigo Dreams, £6.75