Douglas Oliver

Douglas Oliver taught at the British Institute in Paris. He died in 2000.

Two Poems

Douglas Oliver, 7 May 1998

Chinese Bridport

Then the morning shadow falls, suddenly slanting down monstrous apartment blocks at Porte de Choisy and its Chinatown, over a piazza of pagoda-style kiosks. Diaspora money with its huge fist has thrust buildings into earth here, cliffs of them with mud-coloured balconies and strata of pallid walls. Knocking from his heights, an Asian fixes a lathe and he knocks at my heart...

Poem: ‘Forearms’

Douglas Oliver, 1 August 1996

A purple-haired woman with a paper handkerchief for a face runs down the rue des Messageries. Between the perspective of buildings tall crane idle against the lines of morning and a doleful green lion with navy-blue eyes tattering down to emerald wraiths dissipates its body in smoke. Among the stream of Lubavitchers this Saturday from the synagogue comes a half-transparent gesture with a hand...

Poem: ‘A Little Night’

Douglas Oliver, 23 May 1996

A word to come lies in a little night where ash is falling. The word can’t be this ‘coffin’, lying in its candour, in its cinders. Inside, the poet’s too lazy in his death to perform a truth singly. All’s ambiguous.

Yet a coffin is blocked in boldly, I see, under the washing down of night. The cobalt blue cabinet’s cut on a slant with candelabra making...

Two Poems

Douglas Oliver, 24 August 1995

The lnfibulation Ceremony

We have reached the limit of poetry: Western people’s ignorance of how their own cultures are viewed by integrationist Islam is too profound. The following poem could never be read in illiterate deserts. Like Alice Walker and Pratibha Parmar working in West Africa, you could make a courageous film on the subject of infibulation. Failing that, a poem might yet...

Poem: ‘Hard of Hearing’

Douglas Oliver, 12 January 1995

When the painter died the people in her painting stiffened a little in their oils: my sister’s two friends from art school, dressing in her bedroom. An oval mirror caught in the arms of a pink rattan chair reflects Mona’s bed too high slanting down from an unstable wall in the uneasy Browning Avenue house. Her visitors peer intensely when I ask if they want breakfast, seeing my...

Seeing yourself dead

Nicolas Tredell, 21 February 1991

Marriage, mortality, memory, the onset of middle age and the pressure of children criss-cross Andrew Motion’s latest collection. Should we treat the vivid images and incidents that comprise...

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A Journey through Ruins

Patrick Wright, 18 September 1986

Douglas Oliver’s books have been appearing since 1969. Slim volumes published in tiny editions by marginal presses, they have escaped all but the slightest measure of attention. This may be...

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