Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Leaves from Leicester's forest

During my undistinguished and soon-to-end reign as editor of the literary journal brief I've used a pretty simple tactic to deal with the nuisance that is snail mail. I throw any letters and packages I receive into a large box, wait until people start nagging me - by phone, or e mail, or at the pub - to produce an issue or pay outstanding bills, then empty the box on my bedroom floor and pick through the resultant rubble for usable submissions and cashable cheques.

Last week, while preparing the second and last Hamilton-edited issue of brief, I encountered something much more precious than a cheque or a run-of-the-mill poem - a sequence of poems by Leicester Kyle, the much-loved vicar, botanist, environmental activist, and scribbler who passed away in July. Leicester had posted the manuscript to me when he had only weeks to live, along with a typically unassuming covering letter:

Dear Scott

Enclosed are a few literary/botanical tricks and puzzles. You asked me to send you some new work and here it is. I hope it pleases.

Leicester Kyle

The poems, which are beautifully illustrated by a friend, show Leicester's ability to turn the laconically technical discourse of botany into something lyrical and mysterious, through the careful selection of detail and sensitive handling of enjambment. I'm going to publish the whole sequence in brief #34, but in the meantime here's my favourite piece:

Actinotus suffocta

The Patch Plant

Low herb
With creeping branching stems
Forming compact patches

Stylopodium stout
And ill-defined

So small
You could be the young
Of any green thing

Of a moss

A slime mould
On a bank

They should have let you go
Without a name


Patching up the pakihi
With humility

Thanks Leicester.


Blogger Richard Taylor said...

Maps - look at your mail more often!

There is great strength and yet a delicacy and accuracy of great beauty and intelligence in this poem - typical of the many great poems of Leicester Kyle.

12:13 am  

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