ARCHIVE AT THE UNIVERSITY
MEMORIAL POEMS: ALAN HALSEY
& GERALDINE MONK
We will be very honoured to be able to publish a memorial volume for Roy Fisher soon. Its title is THE WORKED OBJECT: POEMS IN MEMORY OF ROY FISHER, and will include work by Fleur Adcock, ‘Kelvin Corcoran, Laurie Duggan, Allen Fisher, Alan Halsey, Robert Hampson, August Kleinzahler, Peter Makin, Geraldine Monk, John Muckle, ‘Frances Presley, Denise Riley, Peter Robinson, Gavin Selerie, Robert Sheppard, Jeffrey Wainwright and David Wheatley. The publication has been a little delayed due to a certain plague, and will coincide with an exhibition and conference/reading in 2024. In advance of that occasion, we are very pleased to print here two of the poems offered, by two poets whose archive is also here at Sheffield, Alan Halsey and Geraldine Monk.
It’s a wonder but not always
of obligation what difference comes to.
For instance that photo on the cover
of your ghost of a paper bag.
I never saw a party table set out
on the street where I grew up
nor so many neighbours at once.
Was that the difference between Handsworth
& Thornton Heath or 1935 & ’53?
Or between a Silver Jubilee & a Coronation?
You were four at the one & I was three at
the other & although you’re right that some
difference is neutral there’s more to come:
one of the faces in that photo’s yours but even
if we’d had a street party for the Coronation
I know I’d be missing from the snaps.
I was only let peep at the cakes & paper crowns
in next door’s front room. Perhaps because
seeing so many neighbours at once I cried
hard enough to be ushered or rushed home
to bed & to forget. Is that another local
suburban difference or the pre- against postwar
or north v. south? Although Handsworth’s
not so far north & Thornton Heath
just south of London & we did leave to
live elsewhere. Heading north but harking back.
The rivers in both our towns were built over.
How could I tell what the party next door
meant to mean & you must have wondered
at the obligation of a Silver Jubilee.
That’s what bewilders even when
we’re not children. The difference
not neutral helping poems out.
THE VIEW FROM FOUR WAYS
For Roy Fisher
I stare out your window after you’ve gone:
it needs cleaning: that Dragon’s Back racked with
curvature of spine is further distorted by downward
streaks of pollution. White peaks smear the pane
dribbling the last gasp industrial past. Emissions.
If the day were not so bright it would
be seen deep with the yellow of cowslips.
I palm a filbert of your words. Grid your view.
The walled garden is going forward without you.
It’s a time thing. Moments slither into past. Arbor
Low. Dow Low. The near-breath of the ouroborus
tickles the nape. Teeth-nibble of tail. The smell of it.
This place imbued with huge-winged shadows.
This place where star-scratched dark glows fearless.
artist, master printer, and sculptor Ian Tyson has
died at the age of 88. Ian was a great friend and
supporter of both the Private Presses Collection and
the Small Press Poetry Collection at the University
of Sheffield Library. He donated works, and also his
time and energy, to help develop the collections. He
shared valuable information on his collaborations,
at his Tetrad Press and ed.it Press, with poets and
artists including Roy Fisher, John Hall, John
Christie, Jerome Rothenberg, Tom Phillips, Jackson
Mac Low, Larry Eigner, and Derrick Greaves. Ian
Tyson was Tom Phillips’ first ‘publisher’ when he
produced the first edition of A Humument (Tetrad
1970) in a series of twelve fascicles.
Ian Tyson founded Tetrad Press in 1969. He enjoyed assisting young poets who were struggling for recognition. For twenty-five years Tetrad produced striking screen-printed pamphlets and posters. One large-scale work was the set of boxed prints of Jackson Mac Low’s The pronouns: a collection of 40 dances (1971), measuring 25x20 inches. Tetrad closed in 1995. Five years later Ian founded ed.it, and began a new phase in his artwork. ed.it was a press in which he experimented with computer-based designs; and he finally gave up the printing press altogether.
His friendships were long-lasting (his working life with Jerome Rothenberg, for example, spanned half a century, beginning with Sightings in 1967). Rothenberg wrote a fine account of their work together in collaborations: livres d’artiste 1968–2003 (St Roman de Malegarde: ed.it 2003). ‘He is illustrator of the work,’ writes Rothenberg, ‘not as subject or as mood per se but as structure. The rest comes out of that, a play between the poet & the artist, where the poet’s words are taken, not for what they say at surface but for the directions they imply—the rules or inner structures that are there for him to read & follow, or evade.’
Ronald King, founder of Circle Press, was among Ian’s oldest friends. (King and Roy Fisher collaborated on several ambitious works including Bluebeard’s Castle (1972), Tabernacle (2001), and Anansi Company (1992).) In the mid-1960s, before founding Tetrad, Ian collaborated with Ron at Circle Press; there, Ian honed his screen printing skills. Much later, Roy and Ian created Roller (Circle Press, 1999); a limited number were housed in ‘sculptural containers’ of MDF with a 3D sculpture rising up from the top, an idea that Ian had been developing for several years, both in print and in large-scale outdoor sculptures. He used the same technique for the CD containers for Brian Ferneyhough’s Time and motion study II (Optic Nerve, 2001).
Ian initially met Roy Fisher via Stuart Montgomery of Fulcrum Press. Their first collaborations were three pamphlets in the Tetrad Press Pamphlet series: Metamorphoses (1970, images by Tom Phillips); Correspondence (1970, images by Tom Phillips), and Cultures (1975). The major work Also (1972, images by Derrick Greaves, edition of 75) is an exemplar of technically superb printing that must be seen to be believed.
On Roy Fisher, Ian wrote:
He was a craftsman and concerned with structure in both poetry and music. One memorable afternoon was spent sitting beside him at the piano while he demonstrated the differing techniques of piano players he liked—for example why Bill Evans adopted a hunched position around the middle of the keyboard. An example of his structural care with words is seen in Cultures where each of the round poems sheds a fragment which becomes the nucleus of the next—words in petri dishes—patches of mould off the walls of Birmingham.
Ian Tyson’s last work was “Ode to Aphrodite” (ed.it, 2021).
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