Goggle Festival 2011 Review of Graham Mort's 'Visibility'

Graham Mort Visibility: New and Selected Poems (£9.99 published by Seren 2007, available at www.serenbooks.com)

I am a big fan of Graham Mort’s poetry. He is a poet who connects with the world around him by the simple use of ‘I’. This is a world that Mort inhabits, moves through, experiences and then retells in fluid, down to earth language that captures some of the magic. Mort allows us to follow in his wake and experience what he experiences, as in the title poem:


Your boots are level with my eyes, slog ahead ankled

in peat, the cold-pressed oils of heather filling

each print with petrol blue.


There is always the sense of the industrial north in Mort’s poetry, that even when he deals with rural, natural themes that the machinery of the past is ready to rear up on the reader. These are seen in a selection of poetry, Labourer at Kololo, Grinton Mines, Today and the poem, The Ice Cream Man:


The children who queue there do not know

that his mind is a darkened cinema

where old Pathe newsreels flicker and glow:

the salute, the eagle, the swastika.


In Mort’s poetry, nothing is forgotten, nothing is loss and the internal world of all his characters is visible to the reader. That is the horror of The Ice Cream Man that the reader is implicit in the secret and that that secret is as sensational as any film on the silver screen. It is what draws me to Mort as a reader, his ability to play around with the darkest of secrets and lies, to show the magic and the horror in the present and the past. Mort is a poet who is involved in his world but he is also pointing out that things happen again and again, and that we are all implicit in it.


This is only on part of Mort’s ability to capture a reader. In the collection a large section is given over to more personal poetry, more domestic voices that we recognise, and even the simple act of hoovering his later Mother’s house as his Father watches can wrench your heart as in the third section of Quietude:


But think how the world spins

how it whirls


showers us like sparks

And how we die and how

the Dyson mingles us

a family again.


Even where there is dreadful loss in Mort’s poetry there is always a final sense of hope, that no matter what, life will continue and there will be light in the darkest of moments. This selected new and old poetry from five of Mort’s past collections show how he has grown as a poet but how he has stayed true to his roots, true his personal voice as a poet and how that has gone from strength to strength. Personally, I can’t wait to see what he writes next.


Available at http://www.serenbooks.com/book/visibility/9781854114396


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