Mark Dickinson's Littoral

Prest Roots 2 / 2007 / 44pp / £6.00 / 1871237246
Prest Roots Press, 34 Alpine Court, Kenilworth, CV8 2QB

Reviewed by Melissa Flores-Bórquez

The littoral (zone) is the shore between the low and high tide marks; it is also more broadly an edge, a depth. This book/pamphlet from Peter Larkin's Prest Roots Press is Mark Dickinson's debut publication. It is an expansive sequence of pieces – inner, middle and upper zones – which interrupt or compound a philosophical-biological field working of the littoral with a stuttering, anacoluthonic rhetoric of notes (which is often attracted to a ringing, surging noise). In its most descriptive the lines sound a little like Ted Hughes (here it's the word "gash" which does it),

Walk over cushion kelp,
Findings, in amongst
Stirrings–light root
Tethered held-fast.

Opening in rock-reef, gash
Pool narrowing, dipped in a darkening
Anemone: depth red or purpling


Tidal hop and boulder dash
Sat upon cliff-fall.
Fossil find, interrogate
Break discard and wash
Away sand.

And in the former fielding sections, echoes and more than echoes of Peter Larkin:

Inscape to far reach

Old scant down

And bearing upon:

Inform modular that

Rests askance the tide

Bed down with whisper Shell

Oil / ore / mineral:

Hope leaven upon

Firm corpuscular

Hands with soft fairy

En-reaches upon covering-

Flow gesticulates a speculative

En-framing, which momentarily

Discards a servitude:

Seen looking upon

But net imaginings set frail

upon what is,

Presume in fleeting

Tan an' tides

To hold upon:

Set upon deceit

How is it possible to live or dwell upon an edge, a putting upon what isn't, or is in flow? One of the prefacing quotes is from Paul Virilio, "The street is like a new coastline. . ." Dickinson's book stalks minutely through a problem of simultaneity and hierarchy, a problem which is either a perceptual placing of being in the water and on the land (on something which is and in something that fluctuates), or a liturgical multi-vocalising of a continuous dwelling-event which can't be "en-framed" anyway, "Set upon deceit", where significata are embedded in an unfolding and glistening (or submerging) array. Range over settlement, as it were. Dickinson is also a great one for "studding" or riveting particular sounds down the page, very obviously "upon" in the piece above, but more subtly elsewhere; and for the wrack of puns which draw in bubbles of pop music lyrics among much else. Or you could strike out what I've said so far, and concentrate on the numerous sets of three in these poems. Setting off such indicators, this is a strong debut; its weaknesses seem minor – slightly over-worked references in a couple of places, part of an occasional over-reaching (in itself an interesting movement and not always Icarus-disastrous), where such stretching is good to find in a first book anyway.

Like savage in the windswept, brevity
Of occasion necessity chilblain heat
Which seeks shelter through movement

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