Poems by John Gurney
The poems in Wheal Zion are suffused with a strong sense of history and pre-history. Concerned with identity, suffering and the process of transformation, they feel their way intuitively through a recurrent sequence of categories: West Country moorland, abandoned mines and shipyards, bird and animal life. There is a close, almost obsessive concern with the vocabulary of metal mining and shipbuilding, which involves to a certain degree the use of the calculated shock of the unfamiliar term, but such terms give freshness and newness to the whole. The basic poetic form is that of the Classical iambic pentameter. At times this is allowed to run freely, and at others it is slowed down to give a dense, almost unyielding, granitic quality to the verse, inviting / challenging the reader to join in with the poet in the conscious interpretation of the poetic process.
Wheal Zion is John Gurney’s first full collection. Previous pamphlet collections have been published by Outposts and Mandeville. John Gurney’s poems have appeared in most of the leading literary journals and anthologies in this country.
The author acknowledges assistance from the Arts Council of Great Britain towards his researches in West Country industrial archaeological sites, mines, museums and record offices which led to many of the poems in this volume.
Things trespass from the edge of consciousness:
whisper, chill as silver, harsh as steel,
attracting my attention. When I turn,
concentrate awareness on each word
interpreting its meaning, nothing’s there,
a splash across an adit, falling stones,
disintegrating echoes. Yet I’m stirred,
darkened in my laughter, in each smile,
perplexed still by a presence, by a form
grotesque, yet disembodied. By a sneer
from something small and dwarfish, incomplete,
miniature, metallic, with no love,
that watches all my movements; intervenes
though sunken deep in matter, set in rock,
and waiting to be cut and broken up.
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Cover photograph: Wheal Zion by Kathryn Morcom
Publication: SUMMER 1979 (64 pages laminated paperback)