In a curious way, many of these poems seem to reflect on the process of writing itself - a ‘green leaf waiting for birth’ (Charles Thompson), the lowering of ‘the bucket into the well’ (David Cook), what happens when ‘the boy god who brings the sun/builds language’ (Rachel Hawkins-Crockford),  and our need to attend to ‘sentences that curl back across a page/reeling in their meaning/stuttering into silence’ (Tim Burroughs). Or perhaps it isn’t just writing, but inscription in a more general sense: we might think of the NATO phonetic alphabet (Gillie Harries), or of the ways in which the super-inscription of a more ‘modern’ way of life always erases of the signs of what has gone before (Maithreyi Nandakumar). We might wish to ‘suppose the mark on the planet was small and local’ (Pete Weinstock); but we have all been indelibly marked, for better or worse, by ‘Gutenberg’s first machine’ (Tony D’Arpino).


But maybe too they show how at this specific moment writing is taking place against a dark background. For Robert Beavis, despite reading Laing and Ginsberg, there is still no escaping the fact that ‘somebody bas died in each of these houses’, and for Pete Milner, lost in the contemplation of a beautiful avenue of trees, there is similarly no complete escape ‘in such a year/with contagion in the air’. How will these poems read themselves, or be read, in the future? We cannot tell: if the future is always opaque to us, it may be that it feels particularly so now, as we await cure or continuation, the success of a vaccine or a new spike, endless lockdown or a return to a ‘new normal’, whatever that may prove to be.

David Punter