Monday 12 July 2021

Gregory Woods, "Records of an Incitement to Silence"


Gregory Woods was born in Egypt in 1953, and brought up in Ghana. He is the author of Articulate Flesh: Male Homo-eroticism and Modern Poetry (1987), A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition (1998) and Homintern: How Gay Culture Liberated the Modern World (2016), all from Yale University Press. His six main poetry collections, all with Carcanet Press, are We Have the Melon (1992), May I Say Nothing (1998), The District Commissioner’s Dreams (2002), Quidnunc (2007), An Ordinary Dog (2011) and, now, Records of an Incitement to Silence (2021). Woods has two doctorates from the University of East Anglia (1983, 2006). He began his teaching career at the University of Salerno in 1980. In 1998 he became the first Professor of Gay & Lesbian Studies in the UK, at Nottingham Trent University, where he is now Professor Emeritus.

About Records of an Incitement to Silence
These are dispatches from a world united in strife and riven by desire. A sequence of stripped-down, unrhymed sonnets, and the longer poems that accentuate it, suggest a missing narrative: the growth of the individual in a world of upheaval, the search for and loss of love, the formation of memories, the limits of what can truthfully be said, the traces we leave and the chance of their survival. ‘One of my creative habits,’ Woods writes, ‘is the wringing-out of a single form until it’s bone dry: the unrhymed sonnets; the monosyllabic syllabics of the long poem “Hat Reef Loud”; the incompatible yoking-together of iambic pentameter and dactylic trimeter in the long poem “No Title Yet.”’ His formal stringency intensifies the poems’ emotional and erotic charge, their celebration and their plaint.

You can find more details about Records of an Incitement to Silence on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read two poems from the book. 

From Records of an Incitement to Silence, by Gregory Woods

The Enigma of Survival

The fittest, who survives, seeks no reward
but rest from mortal combat’s melodrama.
By plighting his devotion to a sword
and delegating feeling to his armour,
anaesthetised by neat adrenaline,
he barely feels the piercing of his skin.
He need not even be the pluckiest
so long as he remains the luckiest.

The fittest, who survives, tries to conceal
his wounds, as if they suppurated thought.
Detached from the beliefs for which he fought,
a guilty conscience his Achilles heel,
he sways above the body of his rival,
upbraiding his own heart for its survival.

The Empty House 

A book is open on
the table at the window.
The light is filtered through
lace curtains and the leaves
of the old mango tree.
A breath of scented air
(wood smoke and frangipani)
discreetly turns a page.

It is as if the house
had taught itself to read
but only did so when
the family was out
and there was ample time
for Aristophanes.

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