Grevel Lindop

Poet, biographer, critic, essayist and writer on just about everything

Ian Marriott: Touched

Sometimes a book of poems comes along that I really want to draw attention to. Such a book is Ian Marriott’s pamphlet collection Touched, just published by the excellent Cinnamon Press.

Ian Marriott’s poems are remarkably economical: invariably he uses very small brief stanzas, each one provoking thought before you move on to the next. There is something haiku-like, or at any rate contemplative about his stanzas: you feel the need to pause an reflect on each one before you move on to the next. The title Touched seems to refer to this quality as much as anything. The poems touch us, or require us to touch them in reading.

Not that the touch is necessarily comforting. Marriott’s poems can be bleak, and have a way of using unsparing and even harsh images from nature to communicate human experience.

For much of Touched, this seems to be experience of trauma. The book opens with a nine-page sequence (but don’t be alarmed: that’s nine small pages of nine tiny stanzas…) –

The abandoned child
plays and replays
his loop of pain
until in the end
there’s little else…
Both oppressor
and oppressed –
in a single body
the bully, and abused.

Those lines tell – or show, rather – something I’d never seen before but which makes perfect emotional sense. I guess we can all identify with it, and many of us find something inside us that answers.

Images from nature are offered which are both exact in themselves and psychologically acute, as in the section called ‘Pond Skater’:

A Fön wind
from the wrong quarter
upends me –
or the slow dark
of a rising trout.
So perilous
this thin meniscus –
six legs splayed out.

Yes, I had to Google ‘Fön wind’ too: more often spelt foehn or Föhn, it’s a dry downhill wind off a mountain (it’s called the Chinook in the Rockies); maybe Marriott was a bit unwise to use this unfamiliar term, but at least we’ve learnt a new word and fact. But more important, it’s a lovely piece of natural observation; but we realise that the pond skater is also the emotional human self – so easily thrown, disturbed, or plunged into depression. we all know the feeling.

Later in the same sequence I found an unforgettable section, odd, grotesque and cheerful – at least, I think cheerful and find it so, ultimately – like something straight out of a Lowry painting:

Front leg missing,
one hundred percent dog –
he loped towards us
without an ounce
of self pity –
that whole, un-whole body,
muscled and twisting
against its loss.

An image to contemplate, unforgettable. And there are the quiet observations of nature and people, each small stanza a thing that yields more each time you ponder it:


A grey heron
hunched on the tide,
shoreline always
a sense of becoming –
day-trippers slip
from city buses,
here to measure
their lives.

Ian Marriott is a writer to enjoy – and to contemplate. Order his fine pamphlet from Cinnamon Press here:  and his previous book The Hollow Bone here:

Ian will be reading at Manchester Poets – Chorlton Library, M21 9PN, 7.30 pm on Friday 22 April. Or if you’ve missed him, why not follow one of those links and buy one of his publications?

Thank You, The Manhattan Review!

Today’s been a good day. Not only has the spring sunshine finally broken through after an winter of arctic rigour, but I got a wonderful letter this morning.

Chris McCabe of the Poetry Library on the South Bank wrote to say that he’s editing a special issue of that very fine New York magazine, The Manhattan Review [] . The issue is to be concerned with Liverpool and Manchester poets, and he and senior editor Philip Fried would like to include some of my work.

Nice cover image...

Nice cover image...

Wonderful! And the kind of thing that, as most poets except the very famous will know, doesn’t happen too often. Mostly poems are only published after endless repetitions of that ghastly grind of sending them out and getting them back with rejections, and then sending them out again… and so on. Most of us, most of the time, can’t face the dreary and humiliating task, so we lazily sit on unpublished work and hope for the best. Until someone else prods us into mailing the poems out yet again. Personally, I hate doing it. It’s a chore, with the likelihood of disappointment at the end of it.

So how wonderful to be actually asked to submit work! Better still, these wonderful editors said that they already had two earlier poems of mine (which they kindly termed ‘classics’ – though I think that was just a kind way of saying they’d been around for a while) and wanted to republish those anyway.

And that was what really warmed my heart above all. One of these poems – I won’t name it, as I imagine the editors want to keep a bit of suspense for the magazine’s publication day – was written back in the 1970s. In those days I never asked myself whether a poem of mine would last in any sense: I was too excited to get it published somewhere. But just a few times over the years, someone has wanted to republish a poem of mine written decades ago – 25, 35 years back – and the delight of feeling that something has actually lasted a little bit, has gone on living after its immediate occasion, is quite intense.

I don’t have vast ambitions for my work. I grew out of dreaming about the Nobel Prize a long time ago. Nowadays I’m content just to enjoy myself in my poems, craft something I think is nicely-made, and hope to play a very small part in handing on the traditions of poetry in good shape to the future (when, my intuition tells me, poetry is going to be needed very urgently indeed as the world undergoes drastic change).

But the sense that something has lasted through a generation, that it still looks good to someone coming on it freshly, is a source of great happiness. So Thank You, editors of The Manhattan Review, and may your magazine never be short of great work to publish!

Meanwhile I’m getting ready to go down (or should that be up?) to Oxford, where I’m reading in a spoken word event as part of the Oxford Folk Festival Fringe tomorrow, Friday 5th (click the ‘Latest News’ button at the top of this page for further information). If you’re in Oxford, it would be great to see you there, so do come along and introduce yourself.

Back in Manchester on Saturday 6th for a reading with Myra Schneider, John Killick and others (again, click Latest News for the full details). Hope to see you at one or other of these if you can make it.