(33 pages, stapled, card cover).
ISBN 1 897968 37 X £4 US$10; US$11 air
In his introduction the author wrote:
London has absorbed my birthplace and I spent almost all my working
life in London. My speech was formed by London speech and my thoughts
by London thought. Although I now live as far from London as it is
possible to go without leaving England, its hold on my imagination is
No one can truly describe London; no one could have imagined it. My
imaginings are echos of thoughts evoked by impressions over many years
of that incomparable metropolis.
I see these poems as inhabiting London and, like its human inhabitants,
they are of varied age and disparate form. Perhaps some of them will
speak to you.
Some poems from the book
Summer's deep penetrating heat
Has emptied every square and street
From Stepney Green to Bow.
Behind the stone and brick facades
A secret people play charades,
Pretending life is rich.
While far above them through the sky
A silver aircraft flying high,
Screams "Life is for the rich".
Summoned by Betjeman
Morning train from Tring to Euston,
Underground to Stepney Green,
Climbing stairs to sunlit pavements
So unlike the Chilterns green.
Journey from the tree clad hillsides
To the city clothed in stone,
From the little lanes long winding
To the broad straight streets wind-blown.
Through the blue vault, slowly drifting,
Come white clouds from western shires.
Sunlight glints on broken bottles,
Sharper than the woodland briars.
I love hillsides green and graceful,
Where wild flowers skirt the roads;
Yet I write of darkest London,
Where humanity implodes.
seasons the fence;
hot sun draws scents,
pungent as tar
that graveled lanes
with shingle grains
when as a child
I wandered wild
through summer streets;
glass marbles flashed
and clicked and clashed
in gutters dry
where friends and I
chanced treasured bloods;
ants shiny black
from pavement crack,
my interest woke
in emmet folk
who tunnel deep:
- so long ago,
yet memories flow
like water clear
from mountain mere
in sunlit streams.
this collection, Bernard M Jackson wrote in Quantum Leap (Issue 49,
speed to the city
black tarmac roads
in a racing stream
can be but a few writers in the
small press world to whom the name John Light is not familiar. For well
years, he has single‑handedly compiled the now eponymous LIGHT'S
an inventory of all known poetry
magazines, country by country, world‑wide. He has also
himself to be a poet of great distinction. Now living in Berwick, he
retains a deeply rooted love and affinity for London, where he was born
this fascinating collection revisits the great metropolis and probes
describes a London seldom observed by casual visitor, tourist and
collection of minutiae
shape, height, colour of buildings
of dress, movement,
of the inhabitants,
back street sounds and shop smells.
End to South Bank)
his poem London Dawn
deploys an economy of words to portray verbally the effect of breaking
across the city. Here is the veritable touch of the artist:
an orange sun
limns leaden cloud
a scarlet base.
is considerable movement in his
poetry, too, as in several of his poems he describes journeys by car
Underground - journeys vividly impressed upon his mind, and invariably
recreated in dreamlike atmosphere. People, too, become ghostlike and
to those characteristic light and shadow portrayals to which, within
context of John's various poems, they duly belong:
one speaks to anyone else:
the dark depths of the metropolis
read or think lonely thoughts,
not to be shared with other
of us who have had regular contact with London will find manyfamiliar
drawn upon within these absorbing pages. I particularly liked and
J.L.'s lovely poem, Globe Town wherein there is superb depiction of an early morning market
into action - and here again we
have fine instance of
the poet/artist's keen eye for detail.
But not all of this writer's admirableportrayals strike a positive note
alluring charm of the innercity. In his poem, Above Groundwe
find a scene of abject desolationgraphically
District Line crawls from London's clay
a desolation of despair;
of poisoned water lie dark
spoiled heaps of slag and clinker
black pipes carry hidden liquids
man‑made forests of stainless steel
corrosive clouds cast dead shadows
once marsh birds spread their wings.
are so many exquisite' poems in
this collection that really, I could continue quoting each in turn.
don't just take the word of a passing review writer - Why not see for
yourselves ? If you love to read well‑written poetry, in the modern
imbued with clarity of perception and incisive imagery, then this is
For a rather different viewpoint see Steve Sneyd writing in Data Dump
Chimerical City: Poems of London, by John Light is a 50+ poems
collection, illustrated by the author, including an elegantly sinister
cover, which sets out to capture, at levels of mood and mystery, JL’s
birthplace and location of his working life before retirement to border
town Berwick. Rather as with US poet Joseph Payne Brennan’s pictures of
rural New England, or indeed P K Dick’s few non-SF novels with the air
that the aliens have just stepped out for a tea break, there is little
overtly genre here, yet an eye-corner feel of strangeness / the Other /
the city as living entity with its own non-human agenda persists
(another mood anthology from prosefic might be Leiber’s ‘Our Lady of
Darkness’ for megalopolis as over critical mass life form-in-waiting):
“iced fire” (“Artist’s Vision”), the “distant towers” rule “beyond the
dereliction of half-hearted businesses” (“Maze of the City”), while
“humanity implodes” (“Summoned by Betjeman”), helplessly fossilises -
“statues of anglers” (“Urban Waterway”) or is manipulated into helpless
captivity to pain-pleasure (“Monstrous Machine”) and above all what
rules is the urban entity itself, “pixelled breast …/ curving sun-brown
(--) sky-darkened needle (--) drawing the city to the stars”, its
builders and denizens alike long outgrown, become interchangeable - “so
many to choose from / so many to be” (“Mystery of the City”),
disposables who will forever fail of admittance to the Meta-city, the
“tall truncated pyramid (--) unsealed by any sort of door” (“Towards
the Unentered Building”), ready and doubtless willing and able to exist
past / beyond / without human presence, become in the last the pyramid
monument of an Egypt-dead or Hodgson’s ‘Night Land’-dead civilisation
to Photon Press index page
(Page amended 17 April 2010)
contents of this site are copyright © John Light.