THE SOLDIER ON THE PIER
Poems by Brian Waltham
The Soldier on the Pier is a collection unified by a sense of mortality (as exemplified in the title poem) that is expressed with no diminution of the zest of expression, sense of absurdity and idiosyncratic angle of vision that have become Brian Waltham's hallmarks. In subject matter, the poems in this collection encompass a wide span of historical time: the Garden of Eden, early Cave-paintings, Crecy, the Somme and the modern world. Throughout, Waltham's love of music and church architecture and his feeling for the natural world shine out.
Brian Waltham is a retired maritime lawyer whose first two collections, Music for Brass (Peterloo, 1990) and Masterclass (Peterloo, 1994), received enthusiastic review notices:
’Waltham's sardonic, disenchanted sense of absurdity, of opportunities missed, of being in the right place at the wrong middle-aged time, is reminiscent of the later Louis MacNeice.’
John Mole, Encounter
‘This is a poet whose pleasure in his craft is infectious. May appearing in print never make him solemn. He is like the after-dinner speaker to whose wisdom and sure-footedness one may confidently look forward. And there are not too many of those around.’
Roger Freebairn, Acumen
’Waltham is endlessly anthologisable, eminently quotable, interesting, inventive, and that rare thing in poetry - fun.’
Peter Finch, Poetry Wales
‘Somehow there's a lot of the ordinary in Brian Waltham's poetry, but it is not, as poetry, ordinary: much in the way that Larkin was ordinary but not ordinary… In the way that - to cite altogether different poets from those under scrutiny - Whitman and Lawrence knew by instinct exactly where to end their liberated, free-verse lines, so Waltham has a special knack too. It's a gift for pace (such as Defoe had in prose) with Brian Waltham…you know that you are dealing with a man with a musical ear; and, as a number of the poems demonstrate, an ear for music too… Masterclass is a satisfying, readable and absorbing volume.’
William Oxley, Acumen
The Soldier on the Pier
Half-way along, leaning outwards,
Sheet metal salt rusted, holding
His wafer musket, he guards
Behind him regimental memories
Of penny-in-the-slot machines,
Pee-sour shelters and, up at
The crenellated Pavilion,
Desperate greasepaint troupes -
'The sun has got his hat on
And is coming out today'
Or The Murder In The Red Barn
Trying to drown the noise of swell
On girders and shut out the
Sewage outfall smell.
He must have been a merry soldier:
Red moonface, eyebrows rapt at
Dodgems, milkbar, tell your fortune,
Cave of love, pint of shrimps,
Mouth telling you it was safe
To spend another sixpence.
Now, one eye glaucomatous, mouth
Twisted in a stroke, it's hard for
Him to know what of soldiery
Is still expected:
How to see the nude cardboard
General pacing the prom, pointing his
Bladdered stick at the old brigade
Netcurtained above take-away and
Adult videos and a fun arcade.
He grates on his spine high and
Quiet, sways that way and this,
But seems angled at a dog on
The shingle, one ear cocked,
Peeing at thrust and hiss.
THE SOLDIER ON THE PIER
Price £7.95 per copy post free (£5.30 post free to Associate Members)
Cover illustration: "The Soldier on the Pier" © Elizabeth Stuart-Smith 2002.
Publication: SPRING 2002 (70 pages laminated paperback)