line no sooner down than taut shadow silvering into air
desperate fruit all wriggle and twitch snapped off
slapped in a plastic crate fading to layers of leaves
knives out guts chucked to an instant coven of gulls
heads scarfed whole sea a boil of snatch and scream
fillets home in a bucket fried in their own oil
all night my head full of saltwater skin sun
flesh feather beak bone so little between us
Copyright © 2017 by Mark Roper
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission
Mark Roper was born in Derbyshire, England in 1951. His collections include The Hen Ark (Peterloo, 1990), which won the 1992 Aldeburgh Prize for best first collection; Catching The Light (Peterloo, 1997); and The Home Fire (Abbey Press, 1998). Whereabouts was published in 2005 by Abbey Press & Peterloo; Even So: New & Selected Poems by Dedalus Press in 2008. His previous collection, A Gather of Shadow (Dedalus, 2012), was shortlisted for The Irish Times Poetry Now Award in 2013 and won the Michael Hartnett Award in 2014.
From meditations on the glimpsed and the fleeting — presences so small they “slip through cracks in the day” — to ruminations on some of the most pressing concerns of our time, the poems in Mark Roper’s new collection play a series of variations on how we perceive and try to connect with the ‘more-than-human’ world. There are poems addressed to familiar companions such as the moon, or a shadow (“your dark matter / neither life nor soul”); poems that stem from travels abroad; and poems that respond to the miniature worlds, and larger implications, of exhibits in a number of museums.
Throughout, Roper’s keynote alertness and subtlety of language frame and mirror his subject matter with consummate skill, allowing the reader to see, hear and sense the vital presences far beyond the margins of the page.
The second half of the book addresses a serious accident in the mountains, and its long aftermath — for which the poet’s startling attention to detail and commitment to his art and craft provides both cure and consolation.
“This book contains so many perfect lyrics as to make any writer jealous.”