Saint Julian Press
Kevin McGRATH ~ Poet
T H E M A R I N E R S P E A K S
WINDWARD as an idea began long ago, originating from a reading of the Homeric Odyssey, especially Scrolls IX to XII, where a voyage is described. Since then I have worked with that idea repeatedly, writing and rewriting in an attempt to conceive of and to represent that ideal journey; such is the basic form of the book’s truthfulness or the inherent pattern of its belief.
All of my books of poetry are founded upon the plan or system of the annual year, for that is the primary unit of time: the circular movement of shadow and light which contains all the elements of creation and demise, of generation and decease, the meeting and conjunction of the male and feminine and all the metaphors of landscape and the natural world which express this, including the sea which is our original source. It is the great Sun which is our first vessel there.
The poems of WINDWARD were actually written over a period of say, the last seven years, although there are lines in the poem and images that derive from poetry written much earlier in time. It is impossible to point at when a poem is really begun for one is always in pursuit of those metaphors and never not in pursuit of the genius of poetry. That is all I do in life and have done with my life, to pursue that genius and those metaphors and to capture and depict their underlying vision of life.
I firmly believe that there exists only one book in this world and that we imitate and emulate that model in all our work and effort. With WINDWARD I am representing that conception and its limitless sensibility once again. The act of writing is simply an endeavor to capture and to present not only what we know but also how we might actually acquire that knowledge: hence the voyage and its essential and necessary fiction. The deficit of love, giving what we do not possess, is our only true accomplishment in life, for if we understand and know what is perfect it is futile to search for anything elsewhere. Yet ultimately, only speech is to be perfected as all our work lies in words; language is the medium for the kind of love which has no object.
Conceived aboard a passenger liner in the Red Sea I was born and grew up on the shores and beside the waves of South China, then spent the best of my youth on a small island off the Welsh coast from where I used to race and cruise out into the cold rough waters of the British Sea. That was when I began to think about boats as ideas, where they came from and where they were going.
As a young man I sailed the Baltic and Levantine Mediterranean and crossed the Atlantic twice under canvas; once as navigator and once as a watch officer aboard one of the last of the old commercial sailing ships. Lately I have found myself living beside the Arabian Sea where the dhows set off to cross the Indian Ocean, going towards the Swahili coast of Africa. My view of the world has always been marine, composed of a sensibility for aquatic movement and the sonority of wind, for the perfection and inclination of light; these have always been my points of reference.
When I grew older I realised that time was thoroughly circular and that it was always divided into two, the male and the feminine. If we are truly to experience time we must not consider it to be simply linear for the years never advance; we are replayed again and again and only if we can join with another can we make that circle elliptical. That is our only possible destiny for sexual love makes time erotic and unpredictable, utterly immediate yet forever uncharted.
Human beings have always sailed, even in neolithic centuries, and the last great migration was in the Pacific when mariners—during one of the most wonderful periods in our known history—sailed only to explore. This is what the best of us do now, we explore, we do not acquire but we pursue what we are not, out there upon a bare colourless ocean.
Now, cast up on this stony and hard New England coast I understand how all of life is truly only metaphor: words, emotions, images, even love itself, and there is always one step further that is possible. In writing this book WINDWARD, I have tried to capture and to represent all these aspects of experience, worldly dimension, and the action of language. This is a conceptual voyage, a journey that contains everything and where nothing is absent; what is not there does not exist.
Kevin McGRATH, Cambridge, Two Thousand & Fifteen