Stijn van der Putte

On reading Giotto's Circle

I find the range of subjects and moods in Giotto’s Circle impressive, and the organisation of the material intriguing. Often the poems start in a voice that speaks unassuming and quiet but precise observations and suddenly takes off to another level of meaning or builds up to an emotional denouement. I especially liked the poems in the sections “No river where the river was” and “We walk the tightrope of the air”. I was much moved by the first poem in the latter section (“Roses were falling ...”), and again by the concluding one (“Missing”), which seems to sum up the sense of disorientation and of being unanchored in the world in the preceding poems, with the images of a house with ‘candystick foundations’ and of a house ‘that glides into the bay’, a ‘cathedral’ that is ‘trundled off’, a name that has been forgotten and a dog that won’t return, being out at sea without land in sight, doors that have been lifted from their hinges and curtains that ‘wave like bladderwrack’ (wonderful word!). The sky, the sea, the birds and the stars seem, however, to offer some consolation and sense of being at home in the world: “And almost forgotten, / warm Pacific nights, / a skyful of twinkling stars”.

 “No river where the river was” seems pervaded by a sense of loss and is full of transformations that are somehow connected to the elemental forces of water, fire and earth. In the third poem “Returning to Maldon” Anglo-Saxon words ‘no longer fly over the water’ but ‘lie shining, buried in water, half- / remembered till they feel our reach’. They touch some language memories in me as a Dutch speaker too, and also remind me of the echoes of ‘many an ancient word / Of local lineage like “Thu bist,” “Er war”’ in Thomas Hardy’s war time poem “The pity of it”, which leads up to ‘gangs whose glory threats and slaughters are’. The middle poems (“Gregor: metamorphosis” and “Someone’s been sleeping”) are intriguing and powerful, and their references to dark tales of transformation in a familial setting seem central to the following sections (“Too high for jumping” and “Was it maman?”). I was touched by these themes in your poems about family life that is so intimate and yet so strange and dangerous and full of mystery.

 I am particularly interested in the poetic transformation of very concrete movements and objects, and admire the way you manage to capture these mysterious shifts from the tangible to the meaningful in mysterious shifts from the words. At the moment I am studying texts and images around the themes of displacement and belonging, and these concerns seem to be part of your book as well. It was stimulating to reconsider these from the angle of your poetry. 

I hope you don’t mind my musings about your work, which is just a way of telling you how much I appreciated your poems. So thank you for your beautiful writings!

 Stijn van der Putte

The Netherlands

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18.02 | 20:17

cont. felt we were sharing it with you.
Best wishes and thanks for your poems. Liz

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04.11 | 01:10

I love these poems more and more as I read them again and again. For me there are elements of Japanese Haiku in some of her poems. Diana Brodie is so talented.

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