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Rangi Changi and Other Poems
Rangi Changi and Other Poems
In this new collection Malcolm Carson further explores the relationship between the individual and his landscape, themes that emerged powerfully in his first full collection 'Breccia'.
Here a trek to Nepal provides the background for the title sequence and is followed by more of the compelling Edgar poems that first appeared in 'Breccia'.
148mm x 210mm
Malcolm Carson is an observer of nature, of birds and rivers and flowers and sometimes of man. Like the dispossessed Edgar from Shakespeare’s “King Lear”, he watches the world.
In one poem, “Edgar sits by the Eden”, he looks for the kingfisher to “stitch its silks/ above the falls”, he sees the “salmon slob/ in eddies”. He knows that his life is passed in watching, “I mould the river/ to my days”. He finds it is “Best like this, for too much/ cogitation draws me down/ to depths where sorrow lies”.
Edgar also watches as the River Gelt “thrashes into groins”, where “Boulders crumble beneath/ breakers”. The rushing river troubles him, there is “No chance of settling, /for nothing lasts/yet all’s the same.” He feels he should be happy “for this is/ a commonwealth/ where I have a part, /can watch and maunder”.
The idea when “Edgar takes an allotment” is of a life that is “My patch for a time, this, allotted./ I will clear it of persistent menace”. “I will have a palisade of corrugated iron/ and stakes” and “my vigilance / will deter marauders that would infect/ the core of all that’s good.”
These poems are reticent, timid even, in the sense that they watch, unseen, often simply passive. “Edgar in winter” is particularly fine in the simplicity and precision of its observation. The landscape is both starkly beautiful and menacing, unsettling. Looking across the Solway shore, the trees are “veining the grey”, “the sky/ pulls back with/ the slow lap of Solway”, “the marsh cows/ threaten with their looks/ and you want to get past/ before they guess your fear/ and the urgent breath frosts/ with your heart”.
He watches the birds. The wren, “fastidious diner of the air” “forays out in rapid whirr”. He feels the buzzard’s “whoosh” on his neck “saw it climb, / veer, hold steady”. Walking through Gelt Woods, “Red squirrels, keen to my breath, leap / leave me where wild garlic bruises the air”. He scents “the deer/ see its rump high in the sheen/ of birches in the clearing/ where the sun cracks open/ the wood’s kernel.” He sees the goldfinch “flit between the pines” and the “treecreeper needle/ up the pine” and he is left to wonder whether he should “look for more in this” as he delights in the woods “inhaling the gasp of the wood’s heave”.
“Rangi Changi” is the Nepalese name for rhododendron, but in the exultation of guide and guided it becomes their whole surroundings: “We agree, loving the sound, / not needing the meaning: ‘Beautiful many-coloured landscape’. “Light down the valley softens into pink”, “first snow feathers the air”. The landscape has a life of its own and he watches: “Slabs of granite come alive, / glisten silver/ in the darkening hours."
Elsewhere in Nepal, in Kathmandu, he “picks up the rhythms”, the kites “mewing above the cars’ cacophony”, the beggars, the taxis, the monkeys. He also meets a man selling drinks to earn the money to teach in the village school. He “wanted me/ to say if he made mistakes”, but it is the poet who is really the student and not the teacher: “When I think of Dhampus, / it’s of him gathering what he could, / putting away carefully for winter / just as he did his stack of dried kindling.”
Malcolm Carson’s poetry is precise, observant, finely crafted. The poetry is a gathering of life, put away carefully for winter, just like that stack of dried kindling in Nepal. And, like dried kindling, it is ready to burst into a vivid flame.
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