Saturday 3 August 2013

Chris McCully's Polder (Carcanet, 2009)

My thanks to Richard Price for recommending and loaning me this volume. Here are some favourite passages (it helps to know McCully is an Englishman long resident in the Netherlands). 

Where do you think the dust in the house called Song came from? . . . . It came from you, and the cycle of shedding solitudes.

from 'Dust'

The trains ran down darkness....

from 'The Thorn Carol'

As far as you look is artifice
or put to work: the air
fills oyster shells with snow; you're borne
by weeks of earth and ice; and deep
under the Amsteldijk carp sleep.

last stanza of 'Murdering the Sea'

The day went on dancing, but you didn't dance.


The hurling sky broke into headaches
while you broke into distance. . . . 

from 'On Greenfield Station'

. . . the sun bloomed briefly in the waters of Snoeksteeg.

Elsewhere the crowds, with their sum of unreliable accents,
queued for Anne Frank and the coinage of memory.


Today burns slowly, hanging ash on the incense stick.
The first tulips are an intricate diversion.

from 'A Tourist on Waterlooplein'

For lunch there's the bafflement of not working.

from 'Summer Sundays'

                You could call it home,
such weather, its visible timing,

its intimate pressure.

from 'Counting the Lightning'

By dawn the local tragedy's locked up
but its meaning is still at large--


. . . and the terrible facsimiles of failure and love
have become love.

from 'Fado'

She is the last of my loves,
patient, imperious.

from 'Ochre'

And here, in the flat, assumptive province
Called exile it's been autumn since winter.


No one told me that I'd have to learn
Such competence with grief.

from 'The Vinegar Days'

Polder is available directly from the publisher here.


  1. Hi Carrie,
    I agree its a marvellous volume. McCully's Selected is also worth a read. I wrote a short review of it a while ago which I just re-posted on my blog:
    All best,

    1. Thanks for commenting, Oliver--I'll come over and give your review a read!