Monday 12 October 2020

Riffrains of a Jazz-Loving Poet . . . Winter Crossings by Alexis Lykiard.

Admirers of Alexis Lykiard’s signature wit and brio will be rewarded by his new collection, Winter Crossings, whose tonality, they will pleasurably discover, is as likely to be rendered in an elegiac autumnal mood as enlivened by – what we might define as – a jazz-loving poet’s vers libre riffrains.

Lyre/Liar Paradox
‘A thought once uttered is untrue . . .
Don’t say a word.’ With this paradox
Fyodor Tyutchev warns poets who,
like Ragenueau in his rhymes, make
‘lyre’ a homophone for ‘liar’. Thus
Alexis Lykiard in his new collection
admits similar doubts but reshapes
them in defiance of ‘voluble minds’
into new phenomena to reflect his
preference, too, for an ‘art drowned
in a silence incorruptibly sea-green.’
(See Colour Charts.)

Detail: Baker-poet Ragenueau’s pâtissière
with metonym in Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac.

Though his characteristic broadsides and satiric counterblasts continue to vie for our engagement as zeitgeisty reminders of a vented spleen, completists of the Lykiard canon will be pleased to recognise new additions to his metrical pioneering of unexpected iconoclastic forms.

In particular, there is a bracing stimulus for students of outré harmonies to be found in a number of fractured syllogistic sonnets in which time-flipping jump-cuts recall freeform jazz motifs, peculiarised by such temporal paradoxes of phrasing and rhyme as when a hinted synthesis makes an appearance before its antithesis is known; cp. Colour Charts and Incubus  . . . the latter, perhaps, should have properly found its place in Lykiard’s earlier, nakedly autobiographical, Skeleton Keys

(Doubters of these hesitant interpretations should take note of Alexis’s own view of such speculative jazz-inspired methodologies: ‘I attempted this first consciously in Living Jazz in the late 1980s, seeking a system of musical echoes which seemed specially appropriate there . . . of course one cannot please everyone: a great hero/exemplar Ben Jonson thought ‘Donne, for not keeping of accent, deserved hanging.’ I do, though, adhere to a metrical/syllabic count for the most part, which I hope tightens the structure providing regularity of beat although that's flexible. I caution against too much analytical thinking, being wary of what I dub the Sonny Rollins syndrome! When a music critic dissected a lengthy solo – I think from the Saxophone Colossus album – bar by bar and note for note, Rollins felt so disconcerted (flattered, too, of course), when his own intentions, choice of phrases, etc were explained to him, he almost seized up, and went away, didn’t play in public or record for several years . . .’)

Thankfully, judging by this latest collection, the fate of Sonny Rollins is not likely to befall Alexis Lykiard.

Agreed, Charon waits for all . . . but one feels a poet shouldn’t rub it in.

And, what's more, if the meaning of the elegiac poet’s latest title, Winter Crossings, is intended as a grim metaphor for his current mood, then surely the Ferryman should be told to jolly well cool his heels by the Styx for a while longer and advise this poet that, rather than contemplating seasickness, he should breathe deeply into one of the baker-poet Ragueneau's paper bags and continue, without delay, to write more of his provocatively discursive and diverting verses for his demanding followers.

See also Alexis’s Schooled for Life

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