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The Linguistics of Light journeys from the north Norfolk coast of England across a vast emotional landscape to Greece and beyond.
America is one of the imaginative and physical locations for some of the poems whilst others, for example, “Post-card of a Swan” begin with the small scale, but range in the ancient world and travel through theories of the universe to return to a confined, but comforting place: Einstein’s kitchen on a rainy day.
These poems draw on science, on philosophy and on the bible for insight into our understanding of love, time and memory. Uncalled for, memory seems to: “come, flit land precise//on random things so that moments of the past return again and again and become, in Garra Rock, a kind of blueprint of the future.”
In contrast, some of the sharp blue sunlight of Greece opens other questions of religion and science and, instead of observing a belief in God, the poem’s narrator becomes “observant of the ordinary”; the ordinary life of peasants and goats, but this observation offers a different idea of sacrament, one that leads to an unexpected fusion of science and spirituality in the poem’s final image.
Ordinariness: of traffic, in “Miles from Litlington”; of ironing, in “Winter Afternoon in Hampden Park”, bring us full circle back to the south coast of England and, by so doing, complete the longing expressed in “Derek Jarman’s Garden”. The “shuttered – down, bleached emptiness” of Jarman’s home near Dungeness which opens the whole volume, sets one of its major themes: the longing, both literal and metaphorical, for light.
Light is a predominant theme which resonates in many of the poems, including in the sequence which retell the paintings of the contemporary American painter Edward Hopper. Light, in these poems, can be enticing, compelling, mysterious, or spiritual or as in “Summertime”, even an assault.
Throughout, poems also examine the often intimate, sometimes bewildering, relationship between language and the world, from the simplicity of “The Word” to the disturbing presence of madness, evoked with an equal simplicity, in “Why Words Might Not”, to “The Words to Say it”. This poem, in several parts, presses on the language we use for death, and our understanding of art and imagination. It is the pressure which informs the volume’s title: The Linguistics of Light.
‘Lisa’s poetry is personal without self-absorption, clever without cleverness; her interests lie close to the heart. She writes with the clear eyes and head of an outsider.’ —Tobias Hill
‘In these powerful poems, Lisa Dart’s concern is with the weight of memory and the way it defines self. Uncalled for, memory seems to ‘come, flit land precise//on random things’ so that moments of the past return again and again and become a kind of ‘blueprint of the future’. Dart’s talent is not only an ability to pinpoint such truths, but also to articulate them vividly. The poems are neither forced nor overly philosophical; instead each presents a stunning moment from a lived life in eloquent language that penetrates our own.’ —Andrea Hollander Budy
‘The Self in the Photograph is a… perfectly polished gem, where 'the self' is explored not just through self absorption or endless introspection, but in terms of the fragility of memory, the everyday oddities an acute eye and ear will perceive, without shouting or fuss.’ —Catherine Smith , poetry editor The New Writer
‘The poems we heard were accessible but not simple; they were based on personal emotion but not confessional; that essayed exquisite yet exact descriptions of nature germane to her themes of love, death, meaning, memory and self; that were modest but with secret ambition to get to you; and that were written in technically accomplished free (mostly) verse. She unfailingly convinces you of her sincerity and of the pressure she feels to mediate experiences.’ —Jeffrey Carson