Terrain Seed Scarcity opens with a selection of poems in which the concern for scarcity as a speculative edge first surfaced, and is followed by six sequences arranged in short prose clusters or stanzas, sometimes with verse tail-pieces. Four of these focus directly on trees: under the aspect of addition as a branching diversion rather than a dispersal; the co-forms of forest evoked as edge, line and verticality; plantations as parallels to a re-covered, stretched centre; a lean, denuded outcrop of trees better served by what wheels around it than by what it fails to contain. Some of these sequences are accompanied by brief essays as sideshoots or offshoots. Other poems work through the sourcefulness of an environmental sink figured also as recess or protection, and there is a set of minimalist sententiae which rework 18th century landscape aesthetics. The collection ends with a cycle of syllabic poems, ‘Spirit of the Trees’ derived from a once popular anthology. Some of the more recent material is published here for the first time.
‘With a few exceptions, the sequences collected in Terrain Seed Scarcity are formally of a piece: a series of brief, extremely dense prose paragraphs, separated by large stanza breaks. Occasionally a prose passage breaks into verse, though the tense, verbless notations and almost arbitrary linebreaks (often mid-word) have a texture closer to open-form marginalia than polished lyric utterance … Despite my hesitations and uncertainties about this often very difficult collection, it gives me a firmer sense of the importance of what Larkin’s doing in a way that encountering his individual chapbooks never did … Larkin himself is sometimes almost painfully modest in his claims for his work – at one point he says it hopes to achieve ‘a minor freshness’ (82) – but for this reader Terrain Seed Scarcity was one of the genuine discoveries of the past few years.’ —Nate Dorward
‘This is a long-overdue collection which I welcome unreservedly. Ten years of complex prose poetry concerned with matters ecological and with the possibility of post-modern pastoral. Innovative stuff indeed, it can be thorny in places, as befits the dense undergrowth of this terrain, but finishes with the luminous seven-line ‘found’ verses of ‘Spirit of the Trees’.’ —Tony Frazer
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