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Coal slides & moves beneath us, distant quakes shimmer the plate electricity jumbles in the cracks. Ropes of hail turn yellow & white in the brilliant sun bend of the bow over the black gold bend of a man’s back roofing the world digging away its old lives preserved in carbon. Turn it to any use, make out of it food, furniture, rooves, endless fuels, glasses, plastics, a construction kit for an entire new universe the erotic cabinet full of switches, the green grid cycling giant hub locked to the sky gathering lachrymose lusts out of the cosmic wobble. An entire star cluster’s chatter arriving down the photon-driven tube.

(The Book of Brychan)

It is clear that Torrance’s technique permits an articulation of the absolute interconnection between human work and natural energy, of the human need to ‘roof the world’ with the products of ‘star-cluster’s chatter’. There is no romantic sentiment here, nothing that oversimplifies the human dilemma with regards to natural resources: the world in South Wales was built on coal and energy, is ‘erotic’, i.e. charged, and brings forth life in an eternal present tense. The technique of making stuff is that of making life and yes, of making poetry: the speed of the passage, the charge of it, is striking, accelerated by line-breaks, improvised punctuation (appearing as part of the music rather than restraining it) and rapid switches (that word again) of perception. Thus we are brought to the words ‘projective’ and ‘open field’.

One of Torrance’s major contributions to poetics in Wales is his application of practice and theory generated in the United States in the mid 20th century to both his universal and local concerns. We are talking primarily about the Beat writers, who need no introduction, having fertilised counter-cultural literature around the world since the 1950s, and the developments known as Open Field and Projective Verse. We are drawing on Charles Olson’s seminal essay ‘Projective Verse’ first published in 1950, in which we read, ‘A poem is energy transferred from where the poet got it (he (sic) will have some several causations), by way of the poem itself to, all the way over to, the reader.’ And famously (in upper case), ‘FORM IS NEVER MORE THAN AN EXTENSION OF CONTENT.’ We read this to mean (and this comes as no surprise, or shouldn’t, some seventy years later) that a poem, in order to thrive in the living world of experience, may need to be free of compositional constraints inherited from a culture we may not get on


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