The diamond cutter

Much reading and writing over the last few weeks, and in amongst it all I’ve been particularly enjoying (and enthusing about) R.F. Langley’s ‘Journals’. He’s a poet, a (far more bucolic and less intense) disciple of Jeremy Prynne’s, bending language in strange and interesting new ways.

What’s valuable about his journals is the precision of observation therein. Langley’s obsessions – the natural world, small rural churches, tiny private moments – emerge again and again through absolutely committed, jewel sharp prose.

The book is a masterclass in concise, exact evocation, and also in the deep sensual engagement that supports that kind of evocation. More broadly, it’s one more demonstration of the writerly skill of just looking at the world that goes all the way back to Homer, and no doubt beyond.

It gives the lie to an often-made criticism of the kind of poetry that Langley, Prynne and others write. They’re accused of not engaging with the world, of purposely obfuscating it. The depth and quality of Langley’s journals easily and absolutely refute that.

Prose of this quality is documentary proof of a deep concern with the floating world, a concern that cannot but suffuse and animate every single line of his poetry. If we miss that deep engagement, then it’s our fault as readers, not his weakness as a writer.

If you want to check out the Journals, there’s a sampler here – well worth taking a look at. And here’s a little poetry – some Langley, and some Prynne. More to be said on these two as poets, I think – but not today!

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