Oyster Boy Review 17  
  Fall 2003
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Rucksack Poems

David Preece

Distance and Proximity.
Thomas A. Clark.
Pocketbooks, Morning Star Publications, 2000.
120 pages, £8.50 (paperback).
ISBN: 074866288X

Thomas A. Clark is a Scots poet now resident in Nailsworth, in the English Cotswold hills. Here he and his wife, the artist Laurie Clark, produce artist's books and direct the Cairn Gallery, which specialises in conceptual and land art.

Clark's work has encompassed a number of genres over time: found poems and concrete poetry, the minimalism of haiku, and the formal symmetry of the sonnet. Throughout, he has retained an elegant clarity and acuity, which prevents his work falling prey to the bathos of "Celtic pastoralism."

|An affinity of eye and petal

Clark publishes his own poetry through the Moschatel Press, in small, hand-sewn limited edition booklets, often illustrated by Laurie. Where collected volumes of his poems have been available, these again have been generally only in small, and often hard-to-find editions (Jonathan Williams' Jargon Books, of Highlands, NC, have for example published three volumes of Clark's work since 1971).

"Distance and Proximity," published with the aid of the Scottish Arts Council, is the most easily available of Clark's works. The book collects together for the first time his short prose poems, or "detached sentences."

Clark's is a poetry distilled from the natural world—from weather, flowers, birdsong, sunlight and water—and his response to it.

"A book of poems in the rucksack—that is the relation of art to life." His short, finely wrought sentences result both from his experience of walking through the countryside and from stillness and observation within it, from consideration and contemplation of the ever-changing here and now.

We live in an age so completely self-absorbed that the ability to simply look, to pour out intelligence through the eyes, is an accomplishment.

Though In some ways the book is atypical of Clark's work, it nevertheless provides the new reader with a good introduction to Clark's sensibility.