Ghost Estate

Ghost Estate

Poetry (Salmon Poetry, Clare, 2011)

Click on the image to be taken to the publisher’s page or to buy the book.

“ Ghost Estate is a deeply political book, but it also articulates a profound interest in and engagement with questions of aesthetics and poetics. Its opening poem, as mentioned already, addresses the propriety of poetry in the face of terrible acts, and several others challenge us to think about the idea of artistic responsibility—the extent to which, if at all, the artist should or can respond to events of public concern. Having said that, it is important to highlight the ways in which Ghost Estate is also concerned with the art of poetry itself, and to the many Italian artists referenced in the collection another list can be compiled which includes some of the most significant Anglophone writers of the last two centuries, from Samuel Taylor Coleridge (in ‘The frost performs its secret ministry’) and Edgar Allan Poe (see ‘In memoriam David Marcus’) to Robert Frost (in ‘Something there is that doesn’t love a wall’), and Ezra Pound.”  Philip Coleman

Read the full review below

Or Click here to see the review in Southword Issue 21, 2012

Southword Review

Read a poem from the collection

Ghost estate

women inherit
the ghost estate
their unborn children
play invisible games
of hide & seek
in the scaffold frames
if you lived here
you’d be home by now

they fear winter
& the missing lights
on the unmade road
& who they will get
for neighbours
if anyone comes anymore
if you lived here
you’d be home by now

the saurian cranes
& concrete mixers
the rain greying into
the hard-core
& the wind
in the empty windows
if you lived here
you’d be home by now

the heart is open plan
wired for alarm
but we never thought
we’d end like this
the whole country
a builder’s tip
if you lived here
you’d be home by now

it’s all over now
but to fill the holes
nowhere to go
& out on the edge
where the boys drive
too fast for the road
that old sign says
first phase sold out

Read a poem from the collection


    for Rui Zink

I missed the flight
because of the terror alert
that has terrified everyone

I had some liquid in my pocket
that they thought
might be explosive

just the artificial tears
I have begun to use
because they come easier

& less painfully
& while I waited for my tears
to be decommissioned

the other passengers said
who would think of taking
tears on a journey

during the war on terror
& where did I think I was going
& who would I use them on

Philip Coleman's Southward review of Ghost Estate
Poems ‘for something instead of nothing’
In an article published in last Christmas Eve’s edition of the Irish Times, Fintan O’Toole selected work by a diverse group of artists to illustrate the ways in which 2011 may be described as a “year of haunting and ghosts in Irish art”. In relation to visual art, Anthony Haughey’s Settlement project was presented by O’Toole as one of the most potent works to engage with what he calls “the liminal spaces at the edges of towns and cities” to be produced in the year. Patricia Burns’s Hinterland: the Glen Paintings was also signalled for attention. Turning to poetry, O’Toole’s article concluded with a note on Derek Mahon’s New Collected Poems. Of particular interest to O’Toole was what he called the “prescience” of certain lines in Mahon’s poem ‘America Deserta’, from section 16 of his long poem Decadence (previously published in 1997 as The Yellow Book). Here Mahon describes the “long decline” of “the great money scam” that lead “to pot-holed roads and unfinished construction sites”, an image that seems analogous to the depictions of post-Celtic Tiger social decay represented so poignantly in the work of Burns and Haughey. Mahon’s poem, however, begins with an epigraph from the writings of Zelda Fitzgerald, which suggests that it has an earlier twentieth-century context very much in its sights. ‘America Deserta’ also reflects on “the death of the boom”, to use a phrase the American poet John Berryman coined when writing about another economic catastrophe, the Wall Street Crash of 1929, which brought about the end of the Jazz Age and heralded the beginning of the Great Depression. What O’Toole discerned as a prescient image, in other words, has less to do with the gift of prophecy than it has with Mahon’s acute historical consciousness and his awareness of the inevitability of economic catastrophe for any society where the accumulation of wealth is celebrated above all else, whether one considers the United States of the 1920s or Ireland in the first decade of the millennium.
The “year of haunting and ghosts” might then be considered in terms of a much longer time-span, even further back than the 1920s, to the time including what Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels famously termed “the history of all hitherto existing society” in the first chapter of their Communist Manifesto; that is, “the history of class struggles”. While it is difficult to say where some poets stand in relation to certain kinds of political questions, William Wall is a poet whose work speaks clearly to the particularity of his ideological outlook. As he puts it in a piece entitled ‘Poem on the anniversary of Gramsci’s birth’:
we are free texts

the billboard says to me

I say you never heard

of Antonio Gramsci

Here and throughout the poems of Ghost Estate Wall declares an interest not just in Gramsci – described by Richard Kearney as “one of the first critical thinkers of [the twentieth] century to reread Marx in the light of changing circumstances of industrial capitalism” – but also in the broad contexts of Marxist and neo-Marxist thought. The book includes pointed references to figures such as Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Bertolt Brecht and Marx, and the collection’s epigraph (from Brecht’s Svendborg Poems) answers the question “In the dark times, will there also be singing?” with the reply “Yes, there will be singing / About the dark times.” This then is a substantial collection of poems – seventy-nine in total, many of which are themselves divided into several sections – where Wall engages not just with current Irish economic and political crises but Ghost Estate is also a book that explores the larger, darker contexts of our contemporary historical climate. In this regard the ‘note on the title’ included in the volume is somewhat misleading. There the poet states “the ghost estate is a fitting metaphor for our failed republic” – referring specifically to Ireland – but the book’s cartography of failure is far greater than the immediately Irish cry of its occasion and the range of reference signalled above confirms this.
            In an online interview on in March 2011, Wall described the Upstart project as a way “to get people to reframe the way they think about politics and society. So they encounter a simple phrase or image and it jolts their imagination. They get on their bus thinking. It may or may not affect them”. In the same interview he said that “One of the highest functions of art is to make people reconsider the reality of their lives. […] Language has, indeed, the power to make and remake worlds. I’d argue that we can only understand the world through language, so the people who control how we understand language, or what terms we use to describe something, can partially control the way we think.” Ghost Estate begins with a poem in which these ideas about language are teased out, but it does so by drawing particular attention to the nature of poetry by quoting Theodor Adorno’s famous claim that “To write a poem after Auschwitz is barbaric”:

after Abu Ghraib he says

for others it was Auschwitz
what can I say
art is in the unimaginable
& nevertheless necessary
two sweet bodies lying down
the sweat the smell
sated or dead
figures of speech
we say what we’re told
the unsayable unsaid

A Beckettian inflection here and throughout the collection (most explicitly in ‘On a line of Beckett’s misheard’) augments not just Wall’s concern with language (and its limits) but it also goes some way towards explaining the often ominous atmospherics of his lyrics. This is as one would expect in a volume of poems concerned in a very central way with ideas of haunting and the ghostly, but the “miserable souls who made the mistake of buying their new homes on the cusp of the housing bubble” are not in fact the central figures of dispossession in Ghost Estate. While the refrain of the volume’s title poem (“if you lived here / you’d be home by now”) may on one level be read as an intractable reminder of the delusion that fed the Celtic Tiger, it is also resonant with ideas of displacement and homelessness that pertain in a more profound sense to larger historical crises such as the Holocaust and the so-called War on Terror.
This is not to underestimate the impact the economic crisis is having on so many lives in Ireland and elsewhere, but Wall’s Ghost Estate does serve to offer a larger perspective within which it can be understood. In this respect, then, he seems to exemplify the figure Antonio Gramsci described as the “organic intellectual”, as opposed to the “traditional intellectual” who often appears to be “divorced from the immediate social struggles of history” (as Kearney puts it). Even in Wall’s most ostensibly personal poems – the book contains many moving elegies as well as love lyrics – there is always a keen sense of the interrelationship between private and public spheres. The imagery and symbolism of domesticity and familial relationships are shot through with ideas of broader significance, as in ‘Clearing my aunt’s house after the funeral’, ‘What will become of our children’, or ‘Flying towards a funeral’. Flight, in fact, and travel, are recurring motifs in Ghost Estate, but they cohere in a way that reinforces the general sense of displacement in the collection, as if to say that the poet’s restless spirit cannot find peace at home no matter how closely he identifies with his homeland. Wall’s closeness to Ireland is in evidence in a number of poems here, but so too is a generous internationalism that accounts for a large proportion of the book’s poems written after, to, or for various non-Irish, often Italian, figures, including Carlo Levi, Eugenio Montale, Giovanni Nadiani, Salvatore Quasimodo, Daniele Serafini, Maria Luisa Spaziani, and William Stabile. In this regard, Ghost Estate might have been structured as a book in a slightly different way, with the translations and ‘Italian poems’ in a separate section, but one can see too that Wall’s arrangement of Ghost Estate reflects his commitment to a world without borders. Indeed, the mania for bordering, monitoring, and securing people as they move around the world is the subject of one of the longest pieces in Ghost Estate, ‘Job in Heathrow’, in which Wall describes in often darkly comic terms “the guards [who] wear spectacles / a society of spectacles as the man said / like the dark ground of a cameo / except in reverse”. As in the writing of Brecht, however, the “comedy” never lasts for long, and ‘Job in Heathrow’ also contains images of shocking brutality:
that girl bled to death
a million tiny wounds
& everyone said how well she looked
jammed against the partition
her pants still around her knees
Here and throughout Ghost Estate Wall is uncompromising in his depiction of different kinds of violence and loss, and in poems such as ‘Behind a hospital somewhere in Italy’ he shows that such acts of barbarism are often closer to “home” – wherever that is – than we might like to believe.
            Ghost Estate is a deeply political book, but it also articulates a profound interest in and engagement with questions of aesthetics and poetics. Its opening poem, as mentioned already, addresses the propriety of poetry in the face of terrible acts, and several others challenge us to think about the idea of artistic responsibility—the extent to which, if at all, the artist should or can respond to events of public concern. Having said that, it is important to highlight the ways in which Ghost Estate is also concerned with the art of poetry itself, and to the many Italian artists referenced in the collection another list can be compiled which includes some of the most significant Anglophone writers of the last two centuries, from Samuel Taylor Coleridge (in ‘The frost performs its secret ministry’) and Edgar Allan Poe (see ‘In memoriam David Marcus’) to Robert Frost (in ‘Something there is that doesn’t love a wall’), and Ezra Pound. The allusions to Pound are particularly interesting, given the complicated and at times abhorrent politics of the American poet compared with the presiding intellectual spirits of Ghost Estate.  But on two occasions in the collection, in section viii of ‘Job in Heathrow’ and again towards the end of the book in ‘Meeting at evening’, references to the figure of “friend Elpenor” (the same phrase is used each time), seem taken directly from Pound’s first Canto:

Dark blood flowed in the fosse,

Souls out of Erebus, cadaverous dead, of brides

Of youths and of the old who had borne much;


I sat to keep off the impetuous dead,

Till I should hear Tiresias.

But first Elpenor came, our friend Elpenor,

Unburied, cast on the wide earth,

Limbs that we left in the house of Circe,

Unwept, unwrapped in sepulchre, since toils urged other.




 Of course Wall may not have taken the story of Elpenor from Pound at all, but from Book XI of Homer’s Odyssey, where Pound got it, but what matters, in any case, is not the source of the sailor’s story but its meaning. The figure of Elpenor in The Odyssey is not missed by his comrades when he falls to his death while climbing drunkenly down a ladder from ‘Circe’s ingle’ until he appears as a ghost to Odysseus. ‘Friend Elpenor’, then, in terms of his positioning in Ghost Estate at either end of this long collection, may be said to illustrate both the complexity of Wall’s poetic vision and his engagement with tradition, but he (Elpenor) is also a casualty of war who was almost forgotten. His presence is just as important to Ghost Estate as the ‘miserable souls’ mentioned in the note on the collection’s title because he reminds us that the spectres that trouble our world are not only local but global and we ignore them at our peril.
            In terms of his poetic methods a word should also be said here about the way in which Wall appears to have stripped back his poems so that they read, at times, almost like Beckett’s later poems in their pared down fragmentariness. Largely unpunctuated, except for ampersands and an occasional full-stop, the lines of Wall’s poems do not contain initial capitals and at times may also remind readers of the poems of W.S. Merwin in their formal open-endedness and syntactic fluidity. This strategy presents certain difficulties for the reader – how and where to place pauses, how to gauge rhythm – but Wall’s poems are not as lacking in metrical or sonic exactitude as they might appear. Consider, for example, the music of the following lines from ‘The house of the customs men’ (‘after the Italian of Eugenio Montale’):

a southwesterly beats the old walls


& your smile has lost its lightness


the compass swings wildly


& the dice fall against us


Or attend to the play of rhythm, assonance, and half-rhyme in ‘Nice’:

the gulls pick over


the scrofulous sand


& the beery moon


rises on Americans


intent on experience


before turning in

Here and elsewhere throughout Ghost Estate Wall’s lines and verses turn and turn in on themselves with carefully crafted mastery, but for all of the obvious interest in the mechanics of writing he is also a poet who takes his political responsibilities seriously. As he puts it in ‘Spiders’, a poem no more about cobwebs than Frost’s ‘Design’ is about arachnids:

these tiny cantilevered stanzas


are declaratory



the fragile sign


of intelligent design


a subtle anathema



against sceptics


or reason enough


for something instead of nothing


Elsewhere, in ‘The time I spend’ he echoes W.B. Yeats’s ‘Adam’s Curse’ in his description of “the time I spend / making something / feel unmade” but in the best poems of Ghost Estate Wall’s “making” serves the dual demands of engaged art truly and well.
            Ghost Estate is a long collection, Wall’s third, and some of the poems in it might have been excluded. The closing group of prose poems (flash fictions?) ‘Travels in an Italy of the mind’ might have formed the basis for a separate book, while certain shorter pieces seem oddly misplaced (‘The sexuality of women in cinemas’, in particular). In several ways, however, Wall’s work is informed by a belief in what Antonio Gramsci described as “the greatest danger”—the danger of “ossified thinking”. Formally adventurous, politically engaged, historically and culturally alert and open-minded, the poems of Ghost Estate attest to the mind of a poet for whom the possibilities of poetry as a way of responding to and describing the world are excitingly alive and poised for action. His poems ultimately posit what in ‘Something there is that does not love a wall’ he calls “a version / of the future / that is not the past”:

though we have burned


away the rain


& a hole in the world


directly above our heads


lets the stars in


not everything goes



a wishbone in the ash proves


that wishes


are impervious to fire


though the breast is not


where hope propagates


like poppy-seeds


red flags waving


on every waste


Borbála Faragó's Irish Times review of Ghost Estate

William Wall’s Ghost Estate takes its title from the vast number of unfinished estates that remain uninhabited since Ireland’s economic breakdown. The title poem’s eerie refrain “if you lived here / you’d be home by now” reverberates in the emptiness of the unlived environment, culminating with the painful recognition that “it’s all over now”. Wall’s poems oscillate between depicting total devastation and hope that is found in humanity’s empathy towards the other. The poems look for points of uncertainty, the in-between and transient expressions of what it means to be human. On Stones, a witty sequence about the multiple interpretations of stone as object of home, eternity, weapon or meaning, claims that “things are classified / by their mutability”. On a societal level Wall’s poems mourn the present state of Ireland but also berate the human greed and selfishness that caused the country’s downfall. On a personal level poems explore the sites of fear, anxiety and hope, constantly searching for meaning within the uncertain. Letter to a Doctor metaphorically interprets a medical camera’s search for illness within the body as humanity’s futile attempt to find its locus of meaning within life:

“you & I are transiting / the great digestive tract / that is the world,” the speaker says, then concludes that there is “no way out / the world is everything”.

Anxiety is also manifest in Wall’s poems about the environment. His apocalyptic vision of the ecological demise of our planet is suffused with humility and resignation where the global catastrophe is transformed “into a universal truth / the days are shorter / today than yesterday”. Death, whether environmental or personal, takes central stage in the collection. In Flying Towards a Funeral he recounts with great sadness and empathy the inevitable passing of time as “this cumulus of grief / this near miss in time” where “we feel temporary / too late”.

One of the best poems in the volume is Eight Observations About Hope , a witty and cinematic snapshot of images that does not express hope but observes it. Although hope remains hidden and inaccessible, it materialises in the very act of looking for it.

William Wall has a masterful capacity to depict ambiguity. The striking lack of punctuation throughout the volume and the hidden motifs of thresholds vividly capture transience and doubt as the essence of frail humanity.


Borbála Faragó

The Irish Times, Saturday 28th May 2011

On writing a book of poems - an Essay on the writing of Ghost Estate

Thursday 24 March 2011 11:26

After all this time, the writing of poetry is still the most mysterious thing to me. Prose has its magical moments when the language jives with the plot or character, but a novel is substantially nuts and bolts, a plot hammered into shape, a struggle to control the characters which are forever trying to escape, and there is a daily duty that begins at seven o’clock no matter what the season that’s almost as banal and bourgeois as the banal moments in any other job. But how the lines of a poem fall together and take the shape that I think of as a poem is serendipity to me. Plato had something to say on the subject and he took a dim view of it. The poets cannot account for their inspiration, he said, yet they claim to be sayers of truth. I don’t know about that, not being very convinced of the existence of truth in any shape or form. But I do agree that our words don’t spring from reason but from some other faculty and, as Plato himself charged, it feeds and waters the passions rather than drying them up. Plato, of course, also took a dim view of the passions, but that’s his business and none of mine.

It’s been seven years now since Fahrenheit Says Nothing To Me came out. It’s a long time between collections of poetry. But I tend to accumulate poems slowly, and, in addition, this collection, at almost 150 pages, contains a lot of poems. I thought, since I didn’t have a blog (sic) last time round, I might write something here – the thoughts that come to me while I’m waiting for the actual book. It’s a happy time, but it’s also a time when I wake up at four o’clock in the morning worrying.


The tools of the trade

Over the years my writing has adapted to circumstances – a growing difficulty with hand-writing (see this tongue-in-cheek piece and this Irish Times article), the arrival of laptops, writing novels and short fiction, the arrival of online publishing etc. My habit is to open a document on my laptop and call it something like New Poems 2005. Each new year I copy that document and update the year. So I’m working, at any given time, on perhaps twenty or thirty poems and scraps of poems and phrases and ideas that may or may not turn into something that I would regard as a poem. At the same time I’m working prose fiction.

I’ve tried other tools – one sequence ‘A white bird over Ischia’, was written on the notepad software on an iPod. Several parts of it were literally written on a ferry to Procida in the Bay of Naples. The peculiarly awkward process of typing on the tiny screen of an iPod is reflected in the structure of the poem, a series of short observations in numbered sections. I think the iPod would be the perfect instrument for composing haiku.

Then, over the years, each document gradually accrues near-finished poems, as well as all the other material that has gone into or been taken out of them. When I regard a poem as more or less arrived, I move it out into a separate document which usually has a provisional title for the next collection. For many years Ghost Estate had the working title Black Ice (after the Stan Brakhage film). I continue to work on those poems until I am as happy as I ever am – usually the finishing touches occur just before I send the collection to a publisher. At the same time I’m working on a novel or short stories as well as what I laughingly call my ‘blog’ (what you’re reading now) and anything else that comes along.

The effect of all this heterogenous activity is that there is, from my point of view, a fluidity between poems and also between the poems and my fiction. Some ideas and even lines occur in both the fiction and the poetry. The poem ‘Naples, Island Ferry’, for example, is closely based on the opening of one of my stories, and both are based on a real event, a real day stepping off the ferry to Procida. The dedication in the poem is to a friend who lives there, the man who met me that day. Briefly the poem was also the opening of a chapter in a novel I was working on that came to nothing. The poem ‘Child’ is from an unfinished novel where it was a short paragraph – with a little tinkering prose becomes a poem – perhaps it always was. Other lines have migrated in one direction or another. They turn up as refugees in stories, or refugees from stories to poems or novels. Wherever they emerge they are welcome. As far as my writing is concerned, the borders are open.


A brief digression to the pissoir

I’ve often worried about the intensity of poetry and why it’s not often found in prose. What makes a poem a poem? I’m reminded of Duchamp’s Fountain, a pissoir (except made and found in the USA), and which can be accepted as art only on the basis that Duchamp pointed to it and said it was art. Or perhaps he was saying this object proves there is no art, or art is not special, etc. Much the same can be said of poetry. The location of the pissoir or poem (in a gallery, in a book) the orientation and setting (short lines, for example, in the case of poem, or upside down in the case of the pissoir) demand that the piece be considered in a certain way, as art or poem, even if the viewer/reader is unwilling to think of it as such and even if the classification is rejected, or even intended to be rejected. This tension between the reader’s expectations and the reality of the object lends it a special intensity. So, in a sense, shifting poems between poetry collections and novels or stories, and vice verse, demands that we reconsider the value of the setting. Is poetry no longer poetry if it is a paragraph in a novel?


No puncturing

I began, many years ago now, to force myself to do without punctation. I thought of it as a discipline, a way of simplifying the language and the lines. With my first books I put the punctuation back in, though there was less of it in the second than the first, because I was convinced no publisher would accept it. In Ghost Estate there is punctuation only in the final sequence of prose poems ‘Travel in an Italy of the mind’. I tried to do without it there too but it ended up making no sense. Even José Saramago, whose prose style I revere, occasionally inserts a full-stop if only out of a sense of joie-de-vivre.

This lack of punctuation forces a certain kind of line on me. Typically it’s short, variable in length and a unit of sense in it’s own right (at least to me). Exceptions tend to be deliberate and usually designed to unsettle the reader in some way. I only very occasionally depart from that practice, usually because a line contains a list, or because I want to get a rhyme or half-rhyme in. There are no laws, unless the gentle laws of my own making.

One of the consequences of not punctuating a poem is that there are, from time to time, lines that could belong with the sentence above or the sentence below. I call them ‘rocking lines’ – in that they can be tipped backwards or forwards into either sentence as the reader wishes. I like this kind of ambiguity. In my universe ambiguity is potential, a thought that occasions me a great deal of humility. There are always vastly more meanings than there are writers.



I’m lazy as regards publishing my poems. For many years now I have almost exclusively sent them to The SHOp, a wonderful poetry magazine, published from a hillside in West Cork but travelling all over the world. The publishers are John and Hilary Wakeman, who have become good friends over the years. They never scruple to reject a poem, but most of my poems that have appeared in print, were published there. I detest the long waiting times associated with submitting poems, and in the end of the day, the book is the thing.

I like online publishing a lot. For many years I sent poems to a site published by the Italian writer and academic Luca Paci. As far as I know it is now defunct. Irish Left Review has published some of the more political poems, especially the title poem, which first appeared there and also in the Irish Times. The advantage of outlets like ILR and the Irish Times is that they reach readers who do not normally buy or even read poetry.


The beginnings

When I look back to the early working documents, MS Word files that are dated 2004 and 2005, I realise that the poems that make up ‘Eight observations about hope’ were the earliest drafts I was working on. Even then I could sense the hollowness of what was happening in Ireland. I claim no particular prescience in that. The dogs in the street, famously knowing in Ireland, were talking about the crazy price of houses. My mother-in-law, then almost 90, used to say, ‘Who’s going to live in all them?’ (nobody, as we now know). Everybody was talking about the clientelism and the corruption and the dodgy politics and the crazy lending the banks were doing. There was a terrible despair at the eternal return of Fianna Fáil. There were even opinion polls ten years ago that showed that a majority of people saw the lunacy of what was happening. Of course we didn’t know about derivatives, and sub-prime lending, and senior bondholders, but we didn’t need to. Quite simply, anybody with a brain in his head knew it couldn’t last. Only the extent of the crash took us by surprise. It overturned everything we believed about our lords and masters – we simply and grossly underestimated their stupidity.

So it’s not surprising that a sequence of eight cynical observations on the futility of hope should be among my earliest scribblings. It was the zeitgeist.

Another poem I was working on back in 2004, was one dedicated to my friend David Marcus. At the time he was ill and his health was deteriorating and I began by writing down two shared memories. The first was the funeral of his uncle Gerald Goldberg in the old Jewish graveyard at Curraghkippane. I didn’t know that I’d be attending David’s own funeral before long. But here’s that first memory in its final form:


Jewish graveyard,wintry light
down in the valley
they are lighting fires
the smoke follows
the lie of the land

everything is slightly uncertain
in a certain light

who listens to eulogies
though they may be well done
& occasionally necessary

we are asked to remember the dead
by every stone in the road

The funny thing is that David, a brilliant editor where fiction was concerned, and a fine writer himself, simply didn’t think poetry could be poetry unless it rhymed! He’d have appreciated the thought that I should dedicate a poem to him, but privately he’d have shaken his head over what he liked to call ‘modern poetry’.

Now that I retype that poem here, I realise, with considerable surprise, that uncertainty is something of a motif in the book – particularly in a poem like ‘On formally undecidable propositions’, which is not surprising since that’s the full title of a mathematical theorem colloquially known as The Uncertainty Priniciple, but the word ‘uncertain’ occurs specifically in four poems, and various other formulations recur throughout such as these lines from ‘Earthquake 2’

In too many senses I know
& do not know

And when Salmon sent me the beautiful cover image it revealed another recurring motif that I hadn’t been aware of – locks, keys, doors, gates. Another surprise. I usually make these discoveries in reviews. In many ways, once the final proofs have been returned and the book is essentially on its way to the printer, it becomes a different thing. It is a child who has emigrated. When it comes back in its new clothes I will have to try to understand it all over again. I will be no more relevant to the book than any other reader. As Roland Barthes wrote, the writer is always the past of the book.