Travelling Light

Fidelities  Ian Seed (22pp, The Red Ceiling Press)

I love Ian Seed's poetry. His strange dreamy 'narratives' which are also non-narrative have a vague yet crystal hard precision which is not easy to encapsulate or describe. Take this extract from 'Phantom Limbs - After Maurice Merleau-Ponty'- , where the phenomenological preoccupations of the philosopher tie in with the teasing
enticements of the poet:

     If we break a stone, we can feel its pieces, but once
     a picture is torn, it no longer exists. Yet if I look
     or remember long enough, a constellation emerges,

     pregnant with texture. .
          (from 'Phantom Limbs')

You think about those phrases, imagine them visually and in terms of their ideas, then move on to the next puzzling statement, embracing an overall lightness of touch which is so central to Seed's writing. His shifts from the abstract to the concrete, his flitting between world and idea, language and image, are superbly constructed and so pleasurable to read, ponder, experience and luxuriate in. Yet there's often a melancholy undertone, hinting at the sinister, which splices an evasive non-descriptive quality with a taut lyricism, which combines late surrealism with something more contemporary:

                                             The path
     loses itself in the trees. Faces
     fade, so that in the end you have to

     invent new ones, made up
     of bits and pieces of those you knew
     and loved, or couldn't, before.

          (from 'Absences')

There's an element of game-playing about this writing which is constantly puzzling and elusive, always implying a 'somewhere else', a location or a state beyond  that which is being 'described' and yet this poetry is as material and of the 'here and now' as it could possibly be. I suspect there is also a degree of autobiography going on here, a flash of memory - 'Why, lad, are you here?' (from 'Vein') which is embraced in a general onflow of lyrical exploration which is both specific to the poem and has a more 'universal' communicative effect which speaks to a wider audience, even though we will all take away a somewhat different experience from our reading.

Seed also has a knack for commenting on his own thought-processes which is so smoothly achieved that it feels perfectly appropriate to his method, despite the fact that he's anything but a 'naturalistic' writer:

     In an age of oval-shaped romance pictures,
     dumb letters as downloads, should we scrap it all
     for 'authentic' writing, like a bloody cleft
     washed by the waves, which carry torn up

     messages away in the fringe of their flood?

          (from 'Plot')

The direct address of 'should we scrap it all' has a disarming charm, which implies a sense of being 'in the know' and qualifies the darker and more energetic imagery which follows. What are these 'oval-shaped romance pictures'? - a suggestion of fading sepia prints, perhaps? your guess is as good as mine - but the poem's grappling with the process of writing anything 'original' is humorous and self-deprecating as well as enabling the use of a somewhat lurid imagery which becomes appropriate and acceptable. This is clever writing, playful and ever open to possibility but it's also the genuine article which comes in a lovely pocket size edition, handy for use when travelling light, which is what I think Ian Seed does best!

    Steve Spence 2015