Nicholas Bielby
The Naming of Things

April 2015. 96 pp. ISBN-13 978-3-901993-49-7
£10.50 (+ 2.00 p&p), €13.00 (+ 2.50 p&p), US$ 18.00 (+ 3.00 p&p)
 
"If we can say, with Wordsworth and Yeats, that poetry succeeds when form and meaning perfectly coalesce, when form is not sacrificed to meaning nor meaning squeezed uncomfortably into pre-set forms, then many of Nicholas Bielby's poems are among the finest being written today. Here are poems of scientific observation and philosophical speculation, of family affection, faith, and human grief. They are often sensitive records of personal experiences and landscapes. Yet each poem is more than its subject, each is a work of art in which the elements of life and language have undergone, like a chemical reaction, a transformation into something rich and strange."

Anne Stevenson

"A recurrent motif in Nicholas Bielby's beautifully crafted poetry is the attempt to describe a subject as exactly as possible even as the subject evades description. It is a feeling present in the numerous compelling and touching elegies that dot the book, as well as in his engaging narratives drawn from historical snippets that show us a moment in a life ... In terms of technique it is present in Bielby's masterly use of half or slant rhyme, which communicates as a kind of attentive diffidence, a refusal to pin down too sharply and neatly something that is ultimately tenuous and obscure. The pleasures these poems offer the reader are quiet, subtle, and substantial, and all the more real and lasting for their innate honesty and modesty before their subjects."
Dick Davis


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Table of Contents


Excerpts from The Naming of Things

A Painter on Luing: Edna Whyte
There is only one fault: incapacity to feed upon light.
                     The Notebooks of Simone Weil

She looks into the heart of light, always
not contre jour exactly, but occident;
concentric on the sun, each dab of paint,
tangential to sky, sea, and landscape, is
just as it is not for depiction but
suggestion - of the play of light on what
it lights upon, the sun its hidden source.

The God she denies does not care if we
believe or not, but only cares about
our making ourselves. The God she does not
believe in is what she paints religiously,
light that transforms, transfigures, that lights
a fire here, now, in earth's hearth, heart's
fire that figures unapproachable day.


The Naming of Things
It is enough for you to know that God is; to want to know what he is will only hinder.
                     Richard Rolle, The Fire of Love, 14th century

Adam's commission, the naming of things,
if only in the imagination, brings
them into existence, objects of thought; like God,
breathes into them the power of the word.

Ah, but to name God, put salt on his tail,
that's another matter. "Consider Al-
Lat, Al-Uzza and the third one, Manat. ... These
are nothing but names you have invented yourselves."

The wrestler asked Jacob his name, renamed him
"Ruler with God"; but, when Jacob asked his name,
replied, "Why do you ask?" - thereby stressing,
perhaps, it was enough to have his blessing.

The name-giver who gave himself no name
is called a man. But, master of the scam,
Jacob, now Israel, boldly named that place
"Peniel", saying he'd seen God face to face.

"I AM THAT I AM" answers no question,
is an evasive idiom, suggesting
"What I am is no business of yours."
"Yaweh", translated, simply means "He is."

The thousand names of God are images,
graven, partial, wise or otherwise.
But in the imagination still, I know,
there's something nameless does not let me go.


Reviews of The Naming of Things


"The Naming of Things is a satisfyingly crafted book in which art, nature, belief and death are woven together in a touching narrative of presence and loss. [...] [Nicholas Bielby] poses the big questions: Does God exist? How should we live? How will we be remembered? Yet in his hands these themes are never abstract. They work through a study of personalities, clothed in an exploration of language and the music and lexis of poetic tradition. They examine the possibilities of syntax itself to shape, reveal and embody reality - or falsehood."

Kathryn Southworth, Sofia 117 (September 2015): 25.

"Nicholas Bielby's collection, The Naming of Things, takes us on a journey of scientific examination and philosophical musings, with poems about a plethora of people, of family, faith and grief. [...] Bielby's work is underpinned with a technical mastery fro rhythm and a concern for the shape and architecture of each poem."

Wendy Holborow, "From Myth to Musing", Envoi 172 (February 2016): 65-71; 68-69.


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