Not What Anybody Says
- BuyYellow Tulips: Poems 1968-2011 by James Fenton
Faber, 164 pp, £14.99, May 2012, ISBN 978 0 571 27382 9
One of the great attractions of James Fenton’s verse is the way it manages so often to be both plain and cryptic at once. It urges us to think about what we can’t quite know, and it favours certain strategies for doing this. ‘It is not the houses,’ Fenton writes in ‘A German Requiem’. ‘It is the spaces between the houses.’ He repeats this logical rhythm several times within the poem sequence and closes the work with it:
It is not what they say.
It is what they do not say.
Here are complete, consecutive sentences, but no propositional link between them, no all too helpful ‘but’ or ‘and’ or ‘although’. The second obviously corrects the first but abruptly, and the first lingers there on the page, ready to be completed again, or completed differently.