Christopher Jackson
The Gallery

September 2013. 44 pp. ISBN-13 978-3-901993-42-8 (= PSPS 9)
£5.50 (+ 1.00 p&p), €6.50 (+ 1.00 p&p), US$ 9.00 (+ 1.50 p&p)
 
"The varied rooms of The Gallery house an elegant and memorable first collection. Christopher Jackson's airy poems combine many threads - as in the ethereal 'The Spider', where a piece of music is compared to the spider of the title: 'my gossamer back-and-forthing, / woven ruminations / of a violin'. Characters stay in the imagination - we meet the Dickensian villain Mr Rockwell, the irascible Little Goddess Vendor, and the host of 'The Snow Party', who sees snow falling 'as if infinity / were something it emulated'. Jackson's spacious poems have large concerns: in the first room 'The Nurse's Arms' we meet the fragility of new life, and in the final room 'Sans Everything' Jackson explores foreboding about the future of the planet. But this is a collection which asserts possibility in the powerful conclusions its poems reach: 'When people change the world, they begin quietly.'"

Alison Brackenbury

"'We look back at our looking towards us.' This line catches the essence of The Gallery with its central conceit of being a guide to an exhibition of the poet's experiences (well sustained by evocative 'catalogue excerpts' between sections). Christopher Jackson's rich, dense poems include responses to music and artworks, locations as diverse as Brompton Cemetery and the African savannah and events such as the Occupy protests. Their sometimes dark tone is skilfully offset by bold, affirming images: 'the sky is a vineyard graped with stars'; 'the side of our theatre / is leopardy with leaf.'"
Mike Bartholomew-Biggs


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Table of Contents


Excerpts from The Gallery

The Gallery or The Seven Ages of Man

I'm pleased you're visiting my gallery.
This fresco shows the arrival of citrus light
that Mallorcan summer, the waking earthenware
inscribed with: "FIRST MEMORY".

This next room is video installation:
that's my boot edge of frame, about to
confound the goalkeeper; and there's Father in flatcap,
his pixelly applause. Original footage.

Travel lives in this room. This is the Udaipur
elephant, result of the haggle; I busked with
this guitar on Calle Sagarnaga in La Paz;
and the Chief of Khoisan made this suit for me.

My fourth room is love and its large embarrassments.
The metal-sculpture shows the first Refusal;
each realistic patch of earth here supported a kiss;
and this oil shows her, wondering at the rains.

Fifthly, literature: these fitted panels show Proust
not as it is but as I remember it;
here we have a charcoal entitled 'Bloom and I';
and here, a rendition of Montaigne's death-mask.

Penultimately, my Room of Sickness.
A Vicks Sinex Soother; Italian painkillers
for the famous back spasms in Tuscany;
tweezers from the Glass-in-Foot Episode.

This grave bears open-ended dates above
an epitaph, entitled After Milligan.
My last will and testament dictates
my body shall decompose here in public.


Passivhuis

Together we speak the latest testament.
To them it's bird-language, illegible twitter.
When you run fingers along the balcony
open to the light, it's something new.

Although the paving-stones have been hot,
evening has curled in like wintertime.

Your dialect bubbles up like boiling water.
Our breathing is recycled in the upper vents.
When you aria about futures and solutions,
it's Mozartian, your fierce delight.

They laughed like this in Periclean Greece
or when Mesopotamian man lurched
from oblivion-speech towards poetry.


Reviews of The Gallery


"Christopher Jackson's The Gallery is an intriguing pamphlet from Poetry Salzburg, another first collection of poems with a 'central conceit of being a guide to an exhibition of the poet's experiences' [...]. Jackson has the gift of suggestion, and finds that particular magic of poetry [...]. There is a real sense of a cultured voice in this pamphlet, and of a voice that assesses culture."

Christopher J. P. Smith, "Being-in-the-World-ness", Acumen 78 (January 2014), 117-122.

"The structural conceit of the collection a series of 'rooms', each preceded by a 'catalogue excerpt' emphasises the book's artistic quality, the sense that these poems are a display of their author's skill, but also of the various influences and desires that drive their (and the poet's) composition. This is an original and effective device. Using the excerpts to suggest the existence of other exhibits and installations teases the possibility of a world beyond the words, something unseen and unsaid, yet just as present as the language on the page. [...] although the writing doesn't always achieve the effortless authority of a more established voice, The Gallery is nonetheless a promising debut collection."

Neil Gregory, Eyewear, 2 February 2014.
Click here to read the full review.

"... there is some first rate work on display, and I particularly liked the poems that take the creative process itself as a theme."

Paul McDonald, "From Paris to Emerging Poets", Envoi 169 (February 2015), 72-76; 74.

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