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Winner Glen Dimplex Poetry Award 2008 ‘Sometimes you read collections that in their ambition and concerns alert the mind to the possibility of obtaining a new perspective on what else is being written all around us and this book is such a collection ...’
These words written by the poet Paul Stubbs, announce to an English readership the power, originality and rare visionary elements to be found in this remarkable debut collection from a gifted poet.
The poems gathered here under the title ‘Glaciation’, a poem itself inspired by Shelley’s masterful distillation of alpine scenery in ‘Mont Blanc’, are concerned with a world precariously close to extinction. Stone sets out with only language to meet this catastrophe and from the daunting inescapable truths faced by modern man, suggests a potential existential transcendence via poetic metaphor and striking physical imagery. This poet is also concerned with the nature of melancholy, a ‘creative’ un-nihilistic melancholy handed down to Stone from other writers and artists with whom he shares a fraternal empathy. These support ghosts who seem to continue more fervently through death their heroic struggles with the rational goliath, make their entrances and exits throughout the collection, interspersed with poems culled from the coastal ledges of England, notably the wild and unspoilt stretch of coast between Hartland Point and Bude in North Devon, ‘The Wreckers Coast’, one of the last havens which for Stone are clinging on (just) in the face of an ever accelerating sterile and tyrannically functional modernity. By contrast Stone also draws on his native Suffolk and particularly the lonely coast of shingle spits and heather clad cliffs of mysterious enclaves such as Dunwich and Covehithe, made more visible in recent times by the writings of W.G. Sebald, but also long a sanctuary for earlier solitaries such as Edward Thomas and Fitzgerald. ‘Greyfriars’ and ‘In Boulge Churchyard’ for example evoke a tender, mournfully nostalgic Suffolk landscape that is shy to show itself and garners its essence before signalling to the right receiver. In a poetry world which seems to eschew risk and ever trumpets the easily accessible, these distinctive poems are then as Paul Stubbs rightly asserts ‘as authentic as they are necessary’.
‘Will Stone is the lycanthrope of contemporary poetry, a haunter of the haunted, at loose in the European necropolis. He is drawn to the darker edge of genius, attuned to the shades of Kleist and Trakl, of Rodenbach and Verhaeren, and to the landscapes they have evolved in their image. Transfixed by moments of physical and mental dissolution, he is their elegist, and a true initiate in the noble science of melancholy.’ —Stephen Romer
‘Will Stone is the sharp-eyed beachcomber on the shore of our self-destruction. Read him before the tide comes in.’ —Hugo Williams
‘In an attractive booklet from Menard Press, Will Stone has tried his hand at Englishing Nerval’s grandiloquent and myth-encrusted sonnets known as ‘Les Chimères’. In his remarkable Translator’s Note, not unaffected perhaps by his Master’s own grandiloquence – ”Like a partly submerged crocodile with one amber eye half open, the foreign line sits, waiting for the anxious translator to make a move”…Stone talks a good deal of sense. Having played with the idea of modernising or “freeing up” Nerval, he rejects it as being in effect impossible, because Nerval’s poetic essence is inextricably locked into the obscure imagery, and to dilute it in any substantial way would be to risk losing everything at once. Nevertheless, echoing Walter Benjamin he makes a memorable case for translation as a means whereby a work can take on fresh resonance, revivifying the original which “does not want to become a monolith. A dead thing in the old landscape of language, smothered in creepers and half forgotten myths”...’ —Stephen Romer, Times Literary Supplement
‘Will Stone (whose translations of the German of Georg Trakl can be found in the present issue of MPT) has produced versions that are more than usually at home in the disputed territory between languages, that no-man’s land that translators at their best cultivate. Stone neither foreignizes nor domesticates but is open to and takes full advantage of the possibilities offered by English today. He does what gifted translators are best fitted to do, producing something new, not just because it originates in another culture but because the host (target) language is legitimately changed by it. I was much taken for instance, with his argument in favour of bilingual presentation, far more persuasive now, I think, than it was thirty-five years ago, when Ted Hughes and I began MPT.’ —Daniel Weissbort, Modern Poetry in Translation
‘He is arguably most successful in his grasp of the moments of uneasy calm that nonetheless pervade the verse. Versions of the most famous poems “Grodek”, “To the Boy Elis” and the “Kaspar Hauser Song” reflect this admirably, and Stone has a sure touch with the distinctive Trakl tone of ominous threat. The extended “Helian” cycle gives a real sense in English of the subtlety of Trakl’s art.’ —Robert Vilain, Times Literary Supplement
‘Stone’s approach to Trakl’s work and to its translation is idiosyncratic, it is very much that of the poet-translator, and important for being so. He is saying ‘this is what Georg Trakl means to me as a poet in English and I am translating it to share with you.’ We should be grateful to him for this. It is an approach that widens ‘translation’ out into our language and that therefore also widens out the language of our poetry. And this surely is one of the most fruitful roles translation can have.’ —Stephen Watts, Wolf Poetry Magazine
‘Will Stone’s introduction to his translations from Trakl contains an admirable declaration of principle: “As a translator of poetry I must in the end have a real poem to show for my struggle, not a collection of carefully constructed lines which read like a poem but are in fact already decomposing before they reach the page.” He has struggled with considerable success. His versions of Trakl do read like real poems, and, to a very large extent, are valid equivalents to the haunting and mysterious originals.’ —Ritchie Robertson, Translation and Literature
‘The translator Will Stone subtly and beautifully ushers us into those ‘pure spaces’ where the projection of Trakl’s mind is forever being played out. Stone has given us almost a bone-by-bone crib rather than a word-by-word one. Like a Palaeontologist reconstructing the image of a creature from a distant past, Stone assembles this wonderful resurrection, always allowing Trakl’s voice to be spoken through the two now assimilated minds.’ —Paul Stubbs, Agenda
‘Stone has a definite flair for the striking image and, taken one by one, his jarring visions of a profligate civilization trapped in a fatally debased environment are rawly compelling.’ —Sarah Crown, The Guardian
‘Some say the world will end in fire / … ice / Is also great / And would suffice.’ Will Stone too warns apocalyptically of ice … Frost is detached and wryly witty; Stone is hard, urgent and angry: expressions of righteous indignation are rarely attractive and we may not thank Stone immediately for lifting our blinkers, but Salt are to be congratulated for recognizing this important new voice.
’ —Simon Darragh, The London Magazine
‘The title poem elaborates with frightening savagery on Shelley’s Mont Blanc, and throughout the volume it is clear that Stone has, as poets must, thoroughly absorbed poetic tradition in order to produce a new voice that, while it owes almost nothing to what has come before, is nonetheless entirely original.’ —Simon Darragh, The London Magazine
‘Stone continually walks us back through the ‘European’ continent of his imagination as one walks through a half ruined nave, or bombed arcade. His own poetical form is exact, engaged, and accessible; but it is the author’s exemplary eye for what interposes itself between subject and imagination that lifts these poems into another realm.’ —Paul Stubbs, The Wolf Magazine
‘Will Stone has created a collection of poems here of oblique and uncomfortable beauty, in which he has managed to successfully capture the dislocation and bewilderment felt in the modern era confronted with the ever accelerating decline of the natural world.’ —Paul Stubbs, The Wolf Magazine
‘Will Stone has become best known in this country for his translations of such fiercely subjective European luminaries as Nerval, Rodenbach, Verhaeren, Baudelaire and most recently the Selected Poems of Austrian poet Georg Trakl (To the Silenced, Arc Publications, 2005). Yet what his own work proves is that the interrelationship between poet and translator is not, in this case, an unbalanced one.’ —Paul Stubbs, The Wolf Magazine
‘makes you ask why you don’t read more poems in this vein, poems that are not afraid of seeing the contemporary world for the terrible place that it sometimes is whilst still being able to invoke occasional glimmers of brilliance... this book invokes a good disturbance, one that rakes the mud at the bottom of the pond and sets all kinds of different things into turbulent juxtaposition... it’s an intricately observed, tirelessly crafted, imaginatively wrought book of poems... I am uplifted by their bleak honesty and by Stone’s juggler-like ability with language...’ —Alyson Hallett, Poetry Salzburg Review