Martin Anderson on Skylight Press

“…It was a raw grey Parisian winter day. I was walking through the boulevards that a few years earlier had echoed to the sounds of students marching. In a small flat off the Rue Mouffetard I was introduced to a young Chinese artist from Shanghai, T.T.Wong. I was teaching English Literature at a university in the south. We talked and talked. It was a weekend. By the time I returned to the university I had decided to leave and go east. It had always been an aspiration. Thoroughly fed up with the intellectual undernourishment that is the product of western cultural hegemony I, literally, intended to expand my horizon. English society had, since I was born into it shortly after World War II, only succeeded in submerging my nose in the effluvium of a squalid sewer of class discriminations. It layered that over of course with a sweet patina of imperial hubris. But I was not deceived. Or so I thought. Arriving at the University of Hong Kong , to which T.T.Wong’s letter of introduction to a young Dostoevsky scholar heading a department had directed my feet, I discovered only that the ancien regime (Terms of Service finely calibrated to reflect skin pigmentation …) was firmly rooted in it. Too young, perhaps, and inexperienced to have resented such self deception I stayed on. For many years. Observing the same hierarchical fossilisation that I’d imagined my wanderings might have cast off. But from within the warm incense laden interior of a large Chinese family. I had married. The years, however, turn even gold into dross. Eventually we separated. I inched, yet still further, east. To the Philippines; a place, unlike the one I’d left, in the full throes of post-colonial identity questing. Here I inhaled again that ruinous poison of a hypocritical western liberal theodicy: might is right. Masked, of course, by a gentler sounding discourse of paternalism and science. After a number of years, waylaid by my own indiscretions, I took leave of those warm shores and returned to a far off island I did not recognise. And in which I now bide my time waiting for a favourable wind on which to launch myself again into the deep azure of other skies…”

As his testimony posits, the Essex born poet Martin Anderson led the nomadic life of an adventurous expat before returning to his native land and settling in London (but soon to be Sussex and perhaps beyond). He spent many years travelling, living and teaching in the far East and still regularly visits the University of the Philippines, Diliman, as a professorial lecturer to offer courses in creative writing, modernism and modern British poetry.  His work was first published in the 1980s by Shearsman books and due to his various wanderings has since appeared in US presses and other publishers around the world.  A diverse collection of poetry includes The Kneeling Room, The Ash Circle, two separate editions of The Hoplite Journals, Belonging, and Snow – his Selected Poems from 1981 to 2011.

The Hoplite Journals was described by its publisher as “prose fascicles” that “mark a new direction into an undefinable style.”  Further connections are made to legendary writers:  “A whiff of Borges, a glimpse of Greene (as seen through the Argentine master’s spectacles), the language ornate and often fusty, these prose pieces document an unnamed protagonist’s engagement with the East, both the real contemporary Orient and the fabled East of desk-bound writers and daring turn-of-the-century travellers. The impressions build into a remarkable impressionistic meta-narrrative: here is a Manila of the mind, a Hong Kong out of memory, and many other places, unnamed, the odour of durian and yellowing books overpowering the senses.”  British critic, Ian Brinton, called it an “enormous achievement” in Eyewear.

The poems that comprise Snow expatiate on the poet’s three decades in the Far East in juxtaposition with memories of early life in England.  A cryptobiography of sorts, it was described as “a classic of the great nostalgia of exile” by Nathaniel Tarn.  Such praise from high places was extended to The English Boat, which follows from Belonging and becomes the first part of the forthcoming Interlocutors of Paradise.  Of it, Tarn writes purringly: “Beautiful writing — treasure trove of emanations: 
orchards, hedgerows, meadows, coastlines, a land I used to know and 
still love in the nerves. A stilling for the nerves. The texture thick 
with an ancient country’s history now learning to trace back, through 
all its exploitations, the sources of an elegy for lost empire. Has 
English poetry made the best out of that drawn-out loss?”

Skylight Press is thrilled to publish Interlocutors of Paradise, a collection of evocative and visionary poetry brought home by a wandering bard of the senses.  

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About Daniel

Writer & Musician
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