Kishore Ryan Reviews Paul Croucher

4 December 2018

Williams is also quoted in the epigraph of ‘Stair-work’ (‘The descent beckons / as the ascent beckoned’). Interestingly, ‘The Descent’ is one of Williams’ decidedly more abstract poems. It includes lines such as, ‘No defeat is made up entirely of defeat’ and almost no direct presentation of images besides semi-abstract lines like, ‘With evening, love wakens / though its shadows / which are alive by reason / of the sun shining – / grow sleepy now and drop away / from desire’. This is not to say that Williams’ poem contradicts his notion of ‘no ideas but in things’. Rather, it concretises abstractions such as ‘love’ by connecting them to things such as ‘evening’. Ostensibly ‘Stair-work’ is also a combination of imagism and abstraction:

on the landing
is a woman 

who’ll hold
your hand

and lead you
to an earthed

reckoning.

But there is a certain feebleness in the way the poem culminates with a rather new-aged combination of words, ‘earthed / reckoning’. The reckoning is presumably a sexual encounter that brings the speaker either out of his head, or down from a spiritual realm. Croucher’s word choice here is more or less the inverse of ‘no ideas but in things’. The ‘thing’ – sex – is dressed up in abstractions, the idea that sex makes people earthly. Nevertheless, the words in and of themselves have greater significance in relation to the rest of the book. While ‘reckoning’ has an obvious denotative relationship to the Buddhist notion of Karma, ‘earthed’ is significant because the ground is essentially where human life and suffering occurs.

Earthly suffering as an essential part of spiritual awakening (‘bodhi’) is something Croucher explores mainly in reference to Buddhist philosophy. However, in ‘Daedalus Says It’s Nothing New’ he makes reference to Greek mythology (the same myth in fact that Williams writes about in ‘Landscape with the Fall of Icarus’):

The landing 
is necessary,

has to be
done.

You can’t 
fly forever

under 
the sun.

The initial couplet, ‘The landing / is necessary’, from which the collection takes its title, articulates the book’s underlying theme of reincarnated souls obliged to experience life and the suffering caused by the inevitability of their death. It is meaningful that only the first half of the couplet is used as the title since it provides a clear example of Williams’s statement about poetics. That is, ‘the landing’ is the ‘thing’ part of the clause and ‘is necessary’ is the ‘idea’ part. Ultimately, The Landing is a thoughtful collection of laconic free verse imbued with an underlying sense of ‘dukkha’ – suffering caused by holding onto to that which is always unsatisfactory and impermanent.

This entry was posted in BOOK REVIEWS and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Related Posts:

Comments are closed.

Please read Cordite's comments policy before joining the discussion.