by Julian Randall
I have unwished myself. I have made ritual percussion of the anaphora. I have done the transfiguration of seeing what might not harm me and shifted it to something sharper. I say this not to center my ‘I’, far from it; I am saying this because when Christopher Greggs writes of suicide he demands as much honesty from his reader as he does his speaker, I know that this inquiry, this notion of suicide as a inquiry towards life is one that rings with unflinching resolve. What I know of other people who struggle to remember, to resolve, to justify what it is to stay on this planet is that each of us is often unwillingly methodical in finding the angle sharp enough to pierce us, we make for sad but talented magicians. Greggs’ poems have this gift, how best to shift an image then shift it again and again with profoundly arresting rhythm. Look at this sequence of lines from Greggs’ “Sunday Night (Football) Self Harm”
“& me too my pen raised to my left handa sestina etched to the skin like barbed wire.
on the screen is The Boy who looks like mesits like me watches in horroras his arm goes to wilt with the three line envoiifhedieshedies ifhedieshedies & me again
this time a sonnet to the neckfilling The Boy’s throat till it a wadof dust. a cyst of stunned rock.”
Shifting from image to image Greggs is perhaps most stunning in how he can transfigure a sestina into barbed wire, a sonnet to a wad of dust to a cyst of stunned rock. Is this not also among what is on display and at stake for Greggs’ speaker here in “losing the house”?
“to know a house that doesn’t change is a dead house. / outside the wind is out of character. there is red like apple between my teeth. red like deer grazing rocks. / i am a grammar of bones. my blood runs wet. i am a handsome bleed. my nose a rain gutter. / this is my home. it is not an answer. i know what it costs. how we all need somewhere to leave.”
And again in the contrapuntal reading of the second section:
“No. i choose a forgetting that forgets / forgiveness. Takes my money & vends nothing. if heaven a dollar. / every shadow a cavity in light.”
I am perpetually in awe of this poet in whose hands death is always a question of rigorous inquiry, like Greggs’ ancestor and contemporary. Indeed Christopher Greggs has made a form of resurrection in these poems, I read these poems and I am less alone, I am more prepared to stay, I have emerged from these poems a different self than I have ever been.