Circumspect & Circumflex | Mark Goodwin

What follows is about reading … and caution in a round & about way. It is not circumnavigation, it is a warning that no matter how intent we are on aiming for certainty, the terrain will always reveal its selves in ways map -readers, -makers & poets have no control over.

Llyn yr Arddu, Moelwynion

The focus sheet of water of ‘Llyn in the Moelwyns’. A version of this same little mountain lake appears in Mark’s collection Back of A Vast (Shearsman, 2010). Image: Llyn yr Arddu, Moelwynion, August 2008. Nikki Clayton & Mark Goodwin.

We read
ground through
fine detail printed
on paper …

Talking of over : it is the bent line of a circumflex that sits over y. This can equally be y as to x, or a crow’s spatial a as to be, or the question why? Confused? Well of(f) course that’s what a map’s for: to make us believe that the infinitely detailed, multi-directional & complicatedly angled terrain we find our selves in can be organised. We must be very careful about this powerful simplifying illusion. We map-maker-readers are prone to delusion if we do not watch out, and watch in, so as to spot how we may fool ourselves, especially when reading maps. As a practicing navigator, back in the 20th Century, I visited the Moelwyns in Snowdonia. Afterwards I wrote a poem centred around a small lake, or llyn. ‘Aim for certainty’ is prominent in that poem, and that poem was one of the steps I took towards making my book Steps … a book in which that poem appears.

We’re between
four walls of mist.

Appearance through mist, and missed also, has to be attended to with great care by a navigator. That poem morphed as it passed into the new cartography of a book. That poem’s shapes changed, particularly towards its end as an open misty field form insisted words spread over page. Within the mist-swirl I discovered the lore, the legend, and the curtain or veil of the word ‘llen’ with circumflex and without. In Llyn in the Moelwyns the mountain Cnicht is suddenly revealed. Cnicht has a classic mountain shape, and sits above the rucked blanket of the Moelwyns like a circumflex over an arcane vowel. Poets try so hard to be precise, and the thought of a stray comma or accent or even partial stop can wake a poet into a landscape of sweaty sheet.

The llyn’s still sheet is revealed.

Llyn is lake, or tarn. Llŷn is peninsula. Through veils of lores’ aching mists something missed emerges. A hollow of the lake & the extended point of a peninsula – they meet on maps of landscapes we cannot contort nor bend even slightly to our wills, we can only travel through our becoming, and only accept a landscape’s becoming. Kalapous is shoemaker’s last … yet our shoes or boots are always wearing out. Calibre exists as a measure in a/the round, yet to exist through movement over ground demands that various horizons’ rims ever recede. Precise measures are never

possible ; possible    is wide open. So, finally, as it turns out and turns around, events found some self, and another poem called Peninsula in The Moelwyns became.

‘Llyn in the Moelwyns’ (excerpted in grey italics throughout this piece) appears in Mark Goodwin’s new poetry collection Steps (Longbarrow Press, 2014). Click here to visit the Steps microsite.

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One Comment on “Circumspect & Circumflex | Mark Goodwin”

  1. Rob Hindle says:

    Thanks Mark: the watershed route you navigate (lexically and topographically) is enticing and invocative. This resistance of wild landscapes and their words to our need for precision / design (mastery, effectively) is a particular focus of William Atkins’ The Moor (Faber 2014), who describes moorlands as an alternative sublime. I’ve written briefly on this ‘visionary dreariness’ at https://robhindle.wordpress.com/


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