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Edited by Julia Blackburn
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (96 pages)
(Pub. Jan 2001)
...Darkness, feathers are shed;
From this bird-whitened stone,
I watch a cormorant pluck
Life from a nervous sea,
With a moon behind my back,
Conscious of God knows what
As these birds swim in the eye
Of the green circumstance
From which I am undone
By my duplicity.
Thomas Blackburn was haunted. His child-hood was dominated by an obsessive father (an Anglican priest of Mauritian descent) who scoured his face with peroxide to lighten his skin, and an over-affectionate mother. Moral and sexual uncertainties form the core of his poetry and prose. In a creative life interrupted by bouts of alcoholism and ill health, he wrote into the 1970s, developing an intimate and confessional voice of great power.
He began to publish in the late 1940s, combining writing with two other passions: mountain climbing and spiritualism. Notable collections include The Outer Darkness (1951), The Holy Stone (1954), The Next Word (1958), and A Smell of Burning (1961). The poet was regarded as having 'gone off', overwhelmed by Jung and Yeats. A Selected Poems appeared in 1975, and the posthumous Bread for the Winter Birds in 1980. His autobiography, A Clip of Steel (1969), is an unsparing self-portrait.
Praise for Julia Blackburn 'Blackburn is an idiosyncratic writer who never takes the beaten path to the heart of her subject ... There is humour here, a fresh quizzical eye on the artist and a lucid appreciation of what the pair gave each other and what they took.'
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