Certain moments, hardly noticed at the time, can in retrospect seem to have had direct designs upon the future, opening up perspectives, emotional and physical, into a new space. Remembering how I began to write this book, at the back of my mind is a field of dry grass and orange-yellow Californian poppies on the Pacific coast ten miles south of Santa Cruz , USA . This piece of ground doesn`t actually appear in the book itself, but its scent, its softly calcifying, wind-blown gulleys with ocean beyond are the atmosphere in which these poems first started to breathe. The landscape itself is still and uneventful, while the poems themselves are anything but. The experiences which began with a family group walking across this field near their house involved far more than the distant surf, the scent of sunny grass and eucalyptus. Nor could these people have known what changes were poised at the time to strike. The poems are fragments flying up out of the ground, as if from some invisible explosion. They originate from a place which offered no sign. That one or two experiences can change people not just immediately but years afterwards is extraordinary, yet most story-telling nourishes this assumption. The aim of this book is to make the explosion visible, not just lost in the air.

Summer, 1999

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