Friday 23 June 2023

Tristram Fane Saunders, "Before We Go Any Further"


Tristram Fane Saunders lives in London and works as a journalist. He is the author of five pamphlets including The Rake (The Poetry Business, 2022), and is the editor of Edna St Vincent Millay: Poems and Satires (Carcanet, 2021). His poems have appeared in The TLS, The White Review and Poetry Ireland Review. Before We Go Any Further is his first collection.

About Before We Go Any Further

The full-length debut from one of the UK's most widely read poetry critics, Before We Go Any Further is a book in three sections, moving from darkness into light. Beginning with nocturnes for a sleepless, lonely young generation, passing through surreal and darkly comic poems and word-games, it ends with hope, in a sequence about love, friendship and family.

Winkingly allusive, but immediately accessible and enjoyable, these poems' intricate rhythms create an effortless music that demands to be read out loud. Forms include sonnets, syllabic poems and lipograms using only one vowel. Throughout are funny, moving poems of friendship and loneliness in London, written with dazzling rhyme. 

You can read more about Before We Go Any Further on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read two sample poems from the collection. 

From Before We Go Any Further, by Tristram Fane Saunders


like pigeons do. We follow
the pull of sockets deep
in our thick, wet heads,
our sodden radar: warm,
warmer, colder, warm.
The yearn, that sub- or ultra-
sonic wumph from tail
to beak to gut, that hits
whenever we face due you
or you-by-near-enough.
The clunk, that eight- or cue-
ball of yes dropped snug
into the centre pocket
behind the eyes. Half-
recognised, we follow
what recognises us
by the usward trail it lays:
breadcrumb, breadcrumbs, dust.
Guided, or strung along, amazed,
stumbling home. Tug, tug.

The Sphinx

Crystal Palace Park

It’s lunch, and I’ve one leg on either side
of the brick-red haunch. Astraddle, or astride.
A flask on his flank, a sandwich where the spine
would lie, if either of us liars had one, 

hindlegs before me and the fore behind.
Although it’s true we don’t see eye-to-eye
(uneager for the future, I’ll keep mine
fixed on what for him’s already gone)

we’ve this in common: neither will admit
we’re going nowhere. Someone taught him ‘sit’
in 1854. He mastered it.
The hand that framed this fearful symmetry

made something less the bane of Thebes than kith
to Clifford, Big Red Dog. The hieroglyphs
say nothing: lorem ipsum dolor sit
in Middle Kingdom script. The riddle’s why

the hell we’re here, red-faced. Him? Blame the eye
of Mr Jones, first pharaoh of primary
colours when London’s walls and tastes and skies
were grey. Me? I’ve been struggling to cope.

The thermos spirals open with a sigh.
Pandora’s dog-red lunchbox will be empty,
the lone and level sandwich gone. Still, why
not give the box a shake. It sounds like hope. 

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