Cathedral Sky, Simon Lamb
Simon Lamb Creative, 2019 £6.50
The Japanese have a word:
間 ma space
Unlike Western European conceptions of space as something negative (a gap, an emptiness), ma signifies a consciousness of positive space. Ma is not defined by what is absent. Ma is space that gives form to the whole. It is an intentional interval that shapes relationships between people, things, and time.
I encounter ma as I read Simon Lamb’s collection, Cathedral Sky. In the sequence of 21 poems, some have regular layouts; over half do not. Step by step, I realise there’s something special residing in how carefully the poems are arranged on the page: it’s as important as the words themselves. On facing pages, the poem ‘it is the wish of wings’ reflects ‘You were the castle’.
And I discover these aren’t like ordinary pattern-poems. They don’t lose their meaning when they can’t be seen on the page. Simon Lamb’s a performer as well as a poet. His words invite me to read them out loud.
As I read aloud, the spaces interact with the rhythms of my phrasing. The carefully made spaces, pauses in time, bring my experience closer to the moments that inspired the poet. The natural, dynamic intervals help me sense what might otherwise be intangible.
At times, the images seem to remain in the physical realm: a tarmac road or an earthen path; a wooded enclosure or a bird’s flight; a drop of paint, or stones caught in the spaces between a shoe’s tread.
They use all the dimensions of space and time, often delightfully so. In ‘You have heard the story’, about a frog, I’m brought up short by:
And what of the bird?
And you reply:
The descriptions in these poems summon up places and episodes of life beneath the great canopy of the sky. They meld into an exploration of the narrator’s inner space, to the interval of a life-affirming heartbeat, as here in ‘the scene shifts’:
and halfway through a holloway
a single feather flutters
I’m pleased to have found space in my life for Simon Lamb’s finely produced pamphlet, Cathedral Sky.