Orpheus, Just Checking

I shouldn’t look back. I seem to come
perpetually out of the underworld,
and by feeling my way in the near
total darkness I have won back my
easily frightened away frequently dead
Muse, who follows me silently.
I’m never sure she’s there. The pupils
of my eyes dilated to catch
every glimmer of light, I inch my way
up the winding path, if it’s a path at all,
but upwards anyway to the world of life.
It’s as if I’m always at the same point
though always moving. How far have I come?
I look back. Where I had walked
alone, uncertainly, I see her,
silent still and other and dignified,
filling my eyes with light. But she stops.
I face forwards again, blinded, nonplussed.
Behind me she melts back to the dark halls.

by John Freeman

A reminder that the inaugural Reading Poetry Festival runs this week from 5-9 June. The impressive line-up of speakers includes Iain Sinclair, Bernard O’Donoghue, Leontia Flynn, Kei Miller, Zoe Skoulding, Peter Robinson, and Steven Matthews. There are also two exhibitions curated by Peter Robinson and Natalie Pollard. Many events are free but require you to book. Click here for the full programme and details about how you can book tickets.

‘Orpheus, Just Checking’ is copyright © John Freeman, 2007. It is reprinted from A Suite for Summer by permission of Worple Press.

Notes from Worple Press:

John Freeman was born in Essex, grew up in South London and studied English at Cambridge. He lived in Yorkshire before moving to Wales where he teaches at Cardiff University. A Suite For Summer is John Freeman’s ninth collection of poems. Other collections include The Light Is Of Love, I Think: New and Selected Poems (Stride), and Landscape With Portraits (Redbeck)Stride also published a book of essays, The Less Received: Neglected Modern Poets. The essay ‘We Must Talk Now’ appeared in Cusp: recollections of poetry in transition, edited by Geraldine Monk (Shearsman, 2012). In 2013 John Freeman won third prize in the National Poetry Competition. Of his work, Jim Burns has written: ‘The movement of John Freeman’s poems is always easy to follow. The ease and the warmth make for an attractiveness that is central to the poems. And because they never lapse into the merely anecdotal they retain their quality and stand repeated reading. There is a consistency in the writing that is impressive. The voice in the poems is constant and true.’ You can read more about the collection at Worple’s site here.

Worple Press was founded by Peter and Amanda Carpenter in 1997. Since then they have published a wide range of authors, including Iain Sinclair, Joseph Woods, Elizabeth Cook, Beverley Bie Brahic, Clive Wilmer and Kevin Jackson. They published the selected poems of the acclaimed American nature poet Peter Kane Dufault for the first time in the UK (Looking in All Directions); this was followed in 2007 by Kane Dufault’s To be in the same world. Peter Robinson’s The Great Friend and Other Translated Poems was the Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation for Spring 2002. This impressive backlist was augmented in 2012 by three significant titles: Passio: Fourteen Poems by Janos Pilinszky from Clive Wilmer and George Gomori; Riddance by Anthony Wilson; and the republication of William Hayward’s cult novel from 1964, It Never Gets Dark All Night. Over 2013 and 2014 new titles include work from John Greening, Michael McKimm, Peter Robinson, Mary Woodward and Sally Flint.  More information can be found on Worple Press’s new website and Facebook page.

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