I was reading Barbara Guest’s Forces of Imagination over the weekend and came across this in an essay called “Shifting Persona”:
“The windows are normally independent of one another, although you may pass back and forth from one view to the other. This absurd interdependence is like a lark at break of day.”
Absurd interdependence might be a good description of Oli Hazzard’s approach to the world and to poetry in Between Two Windows –- the title itself a definition of the word “interfenestration”, lifted by the poet from this website, which he raids to make the poem “The Inability to Recall the Precise Word for Something”. It’s a fun poem and a good example of Hazzard’s willingness to appropriate and mess up the codes, to highlight the absurd interdependence of everything.
In fact, my favourite poem in this impressive first collection is “Martedi Grasso”, which samples and remixes words from Borges, Duchamp, Peter Ackroyd and, er, the revolting David Starkey on Newsnight.
Eclectic, erudite, surreal, ludic, this is a wonderful first collection. I’m especially envious of the palindrome poem “Are We Not Drawn Onward, We Few, Drawn Onward to New Era?”. Other stand-out poems (for me) were “A Later Stage of Discipline” and “Three Summaries”.
Ashbery is an influence (“Some Shadows”, perhaps, and “Four Landscapes” has something of “The Instruction Manual”, plus there’s that familiar Ashberian sudden drop in pressure: e.g., “but that’s probably just today talking” in “A Later Stage of Discipline”); Wallace Stevens is in the mix too (most obviously in “Pantoum in Which Wallace Stevens Gives Me Vertigo”). There's some Oulipo in there as well, of course. Hazzard likes language games and odd words (“clishmaclaver” anyone?) and he has a nice line in one-liners: “I’m leaving you everything / except my corneas” (“Glasnost”).
All in all, you should check it out. You’ll have fun and be impressed. It is heartening, too, because it offers further evidence that a new generation of British poets has comprehensively dumped the Movement consensus.
Hail to thee, blithe Spirit! I say.
(In sum, he is simpatico and one to watch.)