81 thoughts on “Touching Distances – Anne Cluysenaar

  1. “… Just chance, those of us here, still living, / speaking new languages,…”

    “For now, let me send my future unself a smile”

    I have just read the first two poems (7 & 8 Dec, 2010), and I wonder how I have resisted revisiting this poet after fifty years. Staggered by the magical wordplay that no review can possibly touch, especially with the trite word magical.
    The unself towards a gestalt akin to my Nemonymous? Touching distances, indeed.
    A giant poet as my once literary ‘mother’ to be lifted lightly in now old arms with utter seriousness.

  2. 11 Dec 2010

    A tantalising glimpse of an almost-death of a pekin bantam in an ice tray leaving a bit of itself behind as a sort of cryological soul? Touching distances.
    I leave bits of myself in books that I Gestalt Real-Time Review….?

  3. 15.12.2010

    “…Girl-child not worth full attention.”

    A telling dwelling, via Borges and chess, uoon the poet’s memory of her seemingly distant father. Touching distances, yet again.
    Today I castled this poem with my rook.

  4. 17/12/2010
    “Overnight snow.”
    Warm bed, laywoman waiting her man to return through the cold, herself listening to Mozart clarinet, visualising cadenzas unwritten but exalting each other.
    This is mighty poetry indeed, to a poetry layman like me, even if a gestalt real-time reviewer of fiction.

  5. 18/12/2010

    Words from those barely remembered dead, ‘jostling’ each other like ‘foreseen’ and ‘unforeseen’, as bell and clapper. This poem rings in my head and I still can’t staunch its resonance.

  6. 21/12/2010


    Significant that I have read this today on the cusp of 21/3/2018.
    Learnt of the simple but surprisingly revealed contrast between menstrual blood and the blood of war.
    Touching distances alongside the ancient Welsh poet Henry Vaughan.

  7. 22/12/2010

    I’ll quote a whole stanza about the poet being looked at by her beloved mischievous cat, as I found it very striking as the apotheosis of ‘touching distances’ in a human sense …

    “It’s like being looked at by time, unconscious,
    ancestral, alien — by the cats who bred her
    near the pyramids, in a world as real
    as ours will be, when we’re all gone.”

  8. 1 Jan 2011

    The durability of a smell throughout future’s changes. The smell of summer’s hay in winter. Hey, that is somewhat sad. Crisp enjambment breaking the smooth and even prose.

  9. 3 Jan 2011

    Of a shrimp’s synchronicity.
    Resonated with my recent liaison with The Shape of Water via Caitlín R Kiernan and Priya Sharma. For my reviews of these authors (or indeed of any authors of whom you want to read my gestalt real-time review), simply google ‘their name’ and ‘gestalt’. It almost always works.

  10. 4 Jan 2011

    “turn it upside down to see if it ‘holds’!”

    This poetically giddy vision of a pram being wheeled on a zebra crossing still holds, like books do when I treat them to gestalt real-time reviewing. They hold, in fact, from all angles, eventually, the more of us who do it to the same book, and then compare our findings, triangulating its coordinates…

  11. 5 Jan 2011

    The ultimate, perhaps, in touching distances by the means of poetry. This poem is exquisite, about the taking of a photo of the poet when a toddler, a poem addressed to the future of that photo’s photographer.

  12. 8 Jan 2011

    Another poem of ‘holding’, now ‘steadying’ time evenescent, via Virgil and Dante.
    I also saw a dipped set of headlights. And touching distances with our dead ones.

  13. 12 Jan 2011

    Dodging potholes on a car journey on a rainy night has always been a metaphor for life itself. And now it’s a practical part of life, too, even or especially this relatively short distance from when the poem was first written.

  14. 13/1/2011

    Which painting of the Malay Archipelago to lend, all of which paintings focus retrocausally to the original gestalt desire to BE in future’s different ways?
    Back towards a heart of darkness.

  15. 15/1/2011

    “— differently evolved, differently evolving.”

    The ultimate vision of ‘touching distances’, tantalising perspectives of human and cosmic, a world being made of several Einsteinian earths as vantage points.

  16. Another 15/1/2011

    “, a church half-drowned”

    A description of a woodcut of flood in 1607.
    Words like wood gouged out.
    A small local church engloutie, if church is a feminine noun.

    “. Might be a pregnant woman.”

  17. 18/1/2011

    “It slipped away, but not away from itself.”

    My birthday in 2011. And I am still here, if no longer there.
    This process of flickering in and out of life in natural creatures I shall henceforth called Cluysenaaring. Not Cloisonné work.

  18. 25/1/11
    A Marsh Arab returns to Eden

    “For ever is not the point. Never can be.
    It’s all for now. To have been again.
    ‘The water, the nature the fish and the birds…’”

    And my dreamcatcher net, “so fine, so white, fans out.”

  19. 27/1/11

    “But it sings, it sings. Only a myth could say so!”

    Here a severed head afloat on the sea. Absurd sacrifice, but yet it sings, absurd, yes, but no doubt cruel to be kind? Like hitting it with a hammer for its song?
    Strangely in tune with this poem of an INTRO DIVE that I read and reviewed here a few minutes ago,

  20. 2/2/11

    “…lonely, lonely,
    too lonely perhaps to know it,…”

    This is the ultimate ‘touching distance’ poem.
    In a cosmic and human observational way.
    Reading it. Sorry I kept you so long before reaching it.

  21. 5/2/11

    “bore with the sparrow-hawk, balanced the risks”

    People moving in and out, kitchen freshly painted.
    Mundane and significant in gestalt, and people or friends as part of the pattern that only a real poem can supply, rhymes and assonances, or not.

  22. 6/2/11

    “, each wave
    an impulse from far away.”

    Another touching distance. A striking poem of the sea and the earth that it will one day surround, a poem that manages to get your head round that impossible conceit. And other conceits, too.

  23. 18/2/11

    “mealy with droppings of bat and bird, strong enough”

    Pub talk of a wood’s and its trees’ belongings – and belonging to each of us, as we are belonged in our turn, I guess. Like only families understand within each one.

  24. 5/3/11
    Saturday 5 March 1936

    “…to note music down on a silent page.”

    Thoughts of the poet’s mother, her mother’s loss of Goethe and a piano, as she moved from Dresden to Britain. A prophecy of Brexit outdoing history’s, herstory’s bravery….?

  25. 17/3/11
    Tsunami and nuclear fallout in Japan

    “…on the edge…”

    Balanced on a haiku between peaceful sea and its broken enjambment. This poem itself is the poignant peaceful sea…

  26. 9/4/11
    At the grave of Henry Vaughan

    “. A shadow leaning
    across the valley from Pen-y-fan.”

    Sounds today like a place in N Korea! But a poem with Henry Vaughan ingredients, a revery at his graveside. Striking enjambment here, as a way of working something loose, not splitting the atom as such but worrying and teasing at the joint where the sense of least resistance occurs in a sentence, thus creating parasitism from synergy, or vice versa.

  27. 12/5/11
    Considering a house-move

    “, someone to welcome
    by the slant of a chair,”

    Seeing suddenly where you have lived for many years through others’ eyes.
    Or touching distances between here and there…

  28. 23/6/11

    “The page darkens with criss and cross —“

    The evolution of the present for the survivor of someone’s death, this poem being one of many poems she could have written? This book, too. Distances change depending whence you try to touch them…

  29. 5/7/11

    “hints of nightmare in dream after dream”

    Ends and beginnings. A poet’s poetry book is read in different ways according to whether he or she is dead and, if dead, the nature of that death. The same text, but a different poem.

  30. 20/7/11
    A dream

    “I like to think of swimmers above me,
    at ease in the water, children at play.”

    Two strangers trust each other, despite a recent murder. But do they know they are both in someone else’s dream? Or someone else’s poem?

  31. 4/8/11
    Walking with Tony Connor near Tal-y-bont

    “though children’s legs in flip-flops, wreathed
    by ripples, show the current still strong.”

    And the previous dream or poem’s current still strong around us? Containing two aging walkers. Youthful, perhaps, elsewhere.

  32. 7/9/11

    “sign of forgotten uses.”

    Bit Irish, most English, this poem touches distances between languages and between memories of an island holiday with someone, memories for after you have died, I guess.

  33. 1/10/11

    “‘Old men should be explorers.’”

    I, an old man, enjoy vicariously the adventure of tasting the plum jam that came from a feisty old woman climbing a tree in this poem. And the young ones, too, who may taste it.

  34. 28/12/11
    “If or rother when I come back, I want to be a musician.”

    Or a poet?

    “Thinking rather than looking I’ve lost
    my focus: I see two identical men
    playing that fiddle, one rather closer
    than the other, as if in some other dimension.”

    Above I show the final significant quatrain.

    Touching distances of self?

  35. 11/1/12

    Starts with a WG Sebald quote that obliquely pre-echoes the nature of the poet’s death?
    And, later, from the poem itself:-
    “, two lives
    confront each other. A kind of hell.
    A kind of heaven.”

  36. Fiona Owen on the back cover says you can read this book in one sitting?
    Its beauty is also in how I have read it. A book of iconic as well as personal poems. They deserve reading to seed or seal their iconicity. Slowly over a year and in one sitting.

    Anne Cluysenaar, tragically murdered in recent years, was an influential instigation of my on-going thoughts leading to Gestalt Real-Time Reviewing, thoughts on the Intentional Fallacy, Russian Formalism, and other methods of flensing literature, a hindsight influence, a legacy garnered by me during her Stylistics course at Lancaster University: 1966-69, when I was a student there.


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