New Poems by Paul Mills:
Out Of Deep Time
Out of Deep Time (Wayleave Press, 2016). Wayleave editor Mike Barlow comments on Paul Mills's new pamphlet of poems:
Paul Mills' pamphlet ‘Out of Deep Time' is an imaginative and ambitious selection of poems about human evolution. Such a daunting all-encompassing theme might deter the faint-hearted, but Paul Mills has years of experience as a writer and both the confidence and skill to take it on. What he accomplishes works for me on a number of levels, the imaginative, the thought-provoking and the emotionally affecting. As he tackles this theme from its various aspects, he often employs a particular image or notion with which to explore the evolutionary process. There is ‘The story of hands', ‘The story of glass', ‘A wriggle', ‘The story of a line'. But the one I focus on here is ‘The fix'.
is to shape stones that bite sharp as incisors
under a carob's shade among wild rubble
seeing the wide plain the herds of bison
is not to scavenge but become hunters
is to make death happen where you want it
is to make the clouds of vultures wait
a world shaped by fix the power of fix
not this of uninterrupted heat
not wind ice but shelter and fire
is to invent needles invent furrows
join strong hands to flexible minds
is to make them restless for completion
on my hearth a poker shaped to a point
iron-handled shovel iron tongs
sawn logs at my back a radiator hot
in my freezer a package of lamb ice
salmon broccoli bread it's everywhere
we live by the fix will die from it probably
yet I also notice what's not the fix
on the mantelpiece a peculiar jug
decorated Navaho sphere-thing from Nevada
and here's a guitar paintings patterns games
saying to me the fix isn't all never was
there is the fix held back the fix in reverse
coins and swords flung to the waters other rhythms
saying however far you reach you hear it
hear them both the fix and not the fix
What initially attracts me is the title, the use of a simple single syllable word to denote the process of human endeavour, the birth and continuing process of technology. It seems to sum up and take everything down to basics, giving us a perspective that's unpretentious and irrefutable.
In just a few stanzas it moves me from early stone tools to the contents of a modern freezer, via the ‘carob's shade among wild rubble', until we're considering the simple everyday tools of today, ‘iron-handled shovel iron tongs'. On the way I'm offered some deftly evoked images including making ‘death happen where you want it'. There's nothing sentimental or romanticised about the intent of this poem. It looks at the stark and practical reality of survival, right up to the modern day where ‘we live by the fix will die from it probably'. And yet…
there's the turn – ‘what's not the fix' – and we're considering the artful, the decorative, the playful, the rejection of violence and functional commerce, ‘coins and swords flung to the waters', all that gives life grace and a meaning beyond mere survival and relentless technological advance.
And all this done in 9 three line stanzas, using well-chosen, spare yet evocative imagery to cover the enormous ground from then to now and beyond, so we can ‘hear them both the fix and not the fix'.
11th December 2017
To order, contact www.wayleavepress.co.uk
You Should’ve Seen Us
You Should've Seen Us presents a selection of films from the Yorkshire Film Archive edited to combine the moving image with a recorded spoken text. The presentation covers a period from 1908 to 1958. Audiences hear Paul's poems, spoken by himself and actors. Some are commentaries, others imagined voices of people in North Yorkshire from before, during and after the Second World War, so that a picture emerges of a period of cultural change.
'In these poems Paul Mills has taken archive film as his inspiration and has produced a wonderfully stirring, thoughtful and ultimately celebratory body of work that spins out from specific histories into all our families, all our lives.' Ian McMillan
The fifty minute screen presentation has been designed for showing at literature and film festivals and local interest groups within the region and beyond. Viewing is in two parts, with an introduction, and short interval, total time two hours.
The poems in You Should've Seen Us are now available from Smith Doorstop in pamphlet form with photographs from the films - buy here
You Shouldv'e Seen Us has been presented at Ilklely Literature Festival, Bridlington Poetry Festival, Lancaster LitFest, Ripon Poetry Festival, Off The Shelf Book Festival (Sheffield).
The project is funded by Arts Council England and Creative North Yorkshire
For information on fees, bookings and how to show the presentation please contact www.yorkshirefilmarchive.com or enquire via the website.
Voting for Spring
His latest full length collection of poems Voting For Spring, was published by Smith/Doorstop in August 2010 - buy here.
Central to the title poem of Voting for Spring is the long human struggle for survival against ice and cold. The poem makes contact with our present climate crisis, as well as suggesting a dimension which is more personal.
The keynote of the book is affirmation, but also uncertainty – a day and night experience for the speaker of 'Women in a Munitions Factory', from a group of poems based on archive film. His reaction to his daughter's psychiatric illness and her recovery is the subject of the powerful poem sequence, '21/2001'.
Together these poems reflect his ability to move between the remote and everyday, to combine intense vividness with philosophical insight.
'Paul Mills' poems are confident, perceptive, entertaining and assured.' Ian Parks, PQR
'Mature, philosophical and adventurous work… Paul Mills strikes me as one of the few poets writing today who is fully prepared not to play safe.' Paul Munden, PN Review
His fourth book of poems Dinosaur Point was the overall winner of the Poetry Business Book & Pamphlet Competition 1999. His literary archive is held at Leeds University Brotherton Library, Special Collections.
Paul is currently the Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at the University of York. He is also an RLF Consultant Fellow.
The Poetry Business, Leeds Poetry.