Prac Crit

Edition Ten

September 2018 - featuring poems and responses by:

Rachael Boast

“The healing aspect of the writing comes out of looking at something long enough that you’ve forgotten you’re looking and you are as much the thing you are looking at; you belong. Poetry is a practice of camouflage so that I am not separate from the language.”

Tara Bergin

“...sometimes the meaning changes as I write because a story appears that I wasn’t expecting. Often – and make of this what you will – I start out trying to write a pleasant poem about nature or love or whatever, and then some twisted alternative starts to appear that I just can’t resist.”

Caleb Klaces

“Earlier in the book, there’s an image of an infant sitting under a printer, happily chewing the first draft of the book itself – which was another way of thinking about the ambivalence of inheritance. The paper contains formaldehyde.”
Wayside Inn

Arun Kolatkar

“Kolatkar had a rippled imagination. He cast a pebble into the lake of poetry, then sat in a restaurant with a cup of tea and watched the ripples expand. In this case, they expand to encompass what was once a new nation. What has become of it is another story...”

Prac Crit is back after a hiatus, and with a new type of feature: The Wayside Inn, named for the meeting-spot in Bombay frequented by Arun Kolatkar and other Indian poets. It’s akin to one of our Deep Notes, but with a poet discussing the work of another from the past, not a thing of their own: in this issue, Arvind Mehrotra examines one of Kolatkar’s poems, and, through it, a vanished moment in Indian literary history.

My conversation with Tara Bergin found its way towards the tiniest details of verse-structure – punctuation, verb tenses, line-endings – and the ways in which these details, tinkered with, can generate subtle and haunting verse, which dares the reader to ask ‘What’s that all about, then?’ while also leaving them assured that something of significance is definitely going on. Analysing Bergin’s ‘Composition for the Left Hand’, and its themes of the hunter, and the hunted, Josefin Holmström connects it with the Gawain-poet, and Keats: refusing to pluck out the heart of the poem’s mystery, she our readers a handle on it nonetheless.

Sarah Howe takes a similar approach to Caleb Klaces’s ‘A nothing to do with God’: a poem which, in her phrase, captures the ‘human desire to draw meaning out of noise’, combining mimesis of rapid-fire thought with levels of historical awareness; Klaces and JT Welsch talk hearteningly about child-reading, and its challenges to our prevailing model of what it means to be a man: ‘We’re made to think of phatic language or small talk as a kind of female preserve, but then you take your child to a baby group and you’re completely at sea.’

Finally, Holly Corfield Carr discusses with Rachael Boast the poet’s place – scarefully assembled, attuned, not to be taken for granted – in nature, and also the use of repetition in her poems; in her essay on ‘Sunday’, Lucy Mercer considers the work Boast is doing alongside, as well as outwith, Rimbaud (the verse and the persona both), paying heed to her fine-grained language.