Thursday, April 23, 2015

Peter Culley, Pleasure Poet, by Rolf Mauer

"Not just our musi­cal tastes, but a cer­tain oth­er­ness too that we must have sensed in one another brought us together. Just the fact of it; our oth­er­nesses were of a dif­fer­ent order. His was expressed in an unease in Van­cou­ver (that never left him) and the KSW writ­ing scene, and grew out of his working-class, Army brat, Nanaimo-Harewood back­ground, which seemed to make him feel more of an out­sider in Van­cou­ver than being a poet and intel­lec­tual ever did in South Wellington."

[. . . .]

"Ham­mer­town, when it came out in 2002, reprinted (slightly revised and reordered) the final sec­tion of The Cli­max For­est, which, though he hadn’t under­stood this when that book came out, was the begin­ning of a long-term project that he com­pleted in 2013 with Park­way. The new book also con­tained a suite of six poems, 'Snake Eyes,'  into which he inter­po­lated a sequence of small black and white pho­tographs. Peter had always been tak­ing pic­tures, I real­ized one day; so unob­tru­sively that it had taken me years to notice. He’d always been inter­ested in the work his artist-friends were doing, and in fine art pho­tog­ra­phy gen­er­ally; W.G. Sebald was a thing; what might hap­pen if he were to drop a few pho­tos into his poems, not to illus­trate them as such but to stand as parts of the poem itself? In time he would dis­pense with the poem part.

Peter’s prac­tice of keep­ing the peo­ple (just) out­side the frame of his pho­tos, which might be seen as an aes­thetic move, was for him pri­mar­ily social and polit­i­cal, and reflected an essen­tial respect for fam­ily, friends, neigh­bours, class mates, sol­i­dar­i­ties incul­cated in him long before I met him. His class con­scious­ness was instinc­tive, and not ever in his inter­ac­tions with his South Welling­ton and Nanaimo neigh­bours did I detect con­de­scen­sion on anyone’s part. Peter’s occu­pa­tion and eru­di­tion didn’t seem any more remark­able to his neigh­bours as far as I could tell than if he had been a welder, let­ter car­rier, school­teacher, a clerk at the Co-op, or unem­ployed."

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