Iain Rowley is the most difficult kind of poet to describe critically: a complete original. Readers of some of his kindred spirits — Mina Loy, David Jones, Lisa Robertson, John Wilkinson — will recognise in this writing the quality of a first-hand vision of everything, told in verse that moves only to extend intellectual and sensuous apprehension. In The Undeliverable, his first collection, he immerses the reader in a series of lyric and dramatic meditations on the ethical resistance that the figure of the midwife, empathetically present to the woman in labour, poses to the violently masculinist history of modernity and its fantasised acceleration towards an automated future without birth. Why is the ‘extractive economy’ his poetic subject? ‘is it so very critical / to sensible midwifery / to be traversed by / such vulnerability’ — is one answer. You will want to turn to a dictionary, a library, the internet and the world now to deepen your understanding, but only after having dwelt on the unforgettable verbal detail that gives these poems their tender, angry, palpable reality: from the sexual-imperial horror of ‘scabbards abraded shaft after shaft / by unslakable martial spirit’ to the wordless and fully human moment: ‘newborn crowning / from plenteous blackness / mother undiminished’. Jeremy Noel-Tod
The Undeliverable by I.S. Rowley (A5 fully bound, 65 pages) price £9.00 + postage BUY
I.S. Rowley crawled out of a North Notts spoil tip at the nadir of Thatcher’s reign, and is still finding their feet.