John Welch: Its Halting Measure
Published 1 June 2012
Paperback, 84pp, 8.5x5.5ins, £8.95 / $15
Download a PDF sample from this volume here.
Born in 1942, John Welch has lived for the last forty years in Hackney in east London, married to the painter Amanda Welch. In 2008 Shearsman Books published his Collected Poems. Shearsman also publishes his memoir, Dreaming Arrival, which deals with the author's experience of psychoanalysis.
Until his retirement John Welch worked as a teacher, mainly teaching English as a Second Language in local comprehensive schools, and at the same time helped run the South Asian Literature Society, an organisation that promoted interest in the literatures of the Indian Subcontinent. He has worked with the Punjabi poet, Amarjit Chandan, and more recently the Iraqi poet, Abdulkarim Kasid, on the English versions of their poems. In 1984 Oxford University Press published his anthology Stories From South Asia. This body of experience contributed substantially to his previous Shearsman collection Visiting Exile, published in 2009. Its Halting Measure covers a range of themes but here above all there is a constant preoccupation with the problems and ambiguities surrounding the making of poems, 'our words like scented gardens for the blind'.
"Clearly Welch, for all his minimalism, has not shied away from grand preoccupations on a local or global scale. For me, it is the quiet intelligence, provoking re-reading, that will bring me to Visiting Exile again; say, the irresistible pushing the adverb from a more to a less expected position: 'There's a god surely who sits in the air' ('Untold Wealth'). The god sits surely … Surely there's a god … Did you spot that god, surely it is one, there among the pigeons? The birds swoop through the poems. No gods are secured." —Vahni Capildeo, in Blackbox Manifold
"The more I read these poems the more struck I am by the reflective and careful way in which the poet deals with both seeing and recognition, the relationship between the self and the other . . .The relationship between public and private is the domain of the lyric poet and John Welch is one of the finest writers nowadays whose concern is to connect that 'Then' with the 'Now'." —Ian Brinton, in Tears in the Fence.
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