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Chris McCully

Chris McCully, Polder
Categories: 21st Century, British
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (96 pages)
(Pub. Jul 2009)
Out of Stock
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  •                                          the air
    fills oyster shells with snow; you’re borne
    by weeks of earth and ice; and deep
    under the Amsteldijk carp sleep.

        from ‘Murdering the Sea’
    Polder begins with extinction. The dust that existed from the first instant of creation is the dust to which in the end all creation will return, ‘sinking under its weight’. The prose-poem ‘Dust’ was written when the poet was being treated for alcoholism and began the process of recovery. The collection ends with poems addressed to Torquatus, friend of the Roman poet Horace, a dialogue across centuries that defies the dust and looks back with mixed feelings to the drinking days of ambition, pride, and failure – and celebrates the poet’s fiftieth birthday.

    In between are other conversations. In 2000 McCully moved to Amsterdam and began to explore the Dutch landscapes, dialects and culture that animate the second section of Polder with faces and voices past and present. In the third, ‘Masterpieces’, works by Vermeer, Rembrandt and other artists displayed in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, are engaged in dialogues that range from the quizzical to the confrontational. The poet tries to find firm ground in a fragile landscape reclaimed from the hungry sea, a home in a place that is not yet home.


    I    Dust   

    II    Polder
    Over and Out   
    Mindful of Holland   
    Remembering Indo-European   
    The Thorn Carol   
    A Curtal at Old Year’s Eve   
    Murdering the Sea   
    A Walk to Kleine Loopveld   
    When for Anyone   
    On Greenfield Station   
    An Auction for Amsterdam   
    Caribbean Shorts
    The Bough
    Eating the Spring   
    Looking at Orion   
    Black Tulips   
    A Tourist on Waterlooplein   
    The Night Visitor   
    The February Fences   
    Summer Sundays   
    Counting the Lightning
    Geese at Vinkeveen   
    An Epitaph   
    The Fat Girl   
    The Wooden Bird   
    Smoke from the Vatican   
    The Gravy People   
    After Beowulf   
    From West of Eden   
    for clive   /s/   cott   
    William of Normandy   

    III    Masterpieces
    The Mill   
    The Drinker   
    Woman Reading a Letter in Blue   
    The Problem with Virtually any Self-Portrait   
    The Bleaching Fields   
    Old Woman Reading   
    The Storm   
    Fishing in the River of Souls   
    Happy Families   

    IV    Torquatus
    Horace in the Sabine Hills   
    A Letter to Torquatus   
    The Boy   
    March in June   
    The Senator   
    A Reply to Virtue   
    On a Request for New Material   
    The Peon Rose   
    The Visitor   
    The Vinegar Days   

    Chris McCully, born in Bradford, Yorkshire in 1958, worked as a full-time academic, specialising in the history of the English language and on English sound-structure as well as on verse and verse-form, at the University of Manchester (1985–2003). From 2003–13 he worked part-time at various universities in the Netherlands (Vrije ... read more
    Praise for Chris McCully 'His verse is crisp and propulsive... At its best, McCully's translation is clear and readable, hitting the beats of Old English metre, and offering punchy phrases'

    Caroline Batten and Charles Tolkien-Gillet, Translation and Literature

    'This is a commendable and exhilarating book, McCully admirably bringing to life the world of honour, weirdness and creatures beyond our ken.' 

    Anthony Clay, Chase  

     'McCully gets the life of words, their swing and weight, resonance and cadence. The poems spark with great lines and phrases...'
    Literary Review
     'This is a singular collection from a singular voice in English poetry, and I highly commend it.'
    Phillip Quinlan, Angle
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