‘Fiery capillaries of copper, cobalt, gold’

It’s made from long shreds of dark tissue paper, this image, but to my eye it looks geological, like veins of quartz through contorted strata of rock. I briefly studied geology many years ago and I still like the language; Ordovician, Silurian, Carboniferous, Permian, Triassic, Cretaceous… They are simply names to identify the age of rocks, the periods of geological history, but to my ear they have a kind of poetry to them.

There are a few poets who have used the language; the artist and writer David Jones in ‘The Anathemata’, J.H.Prynne in ‘The White Stones’, or more recently Lavinia Greenlaw –

‘Here the bedrock is older than life/ on earth. It carries no trace of death,/ no methane or anthracite, nothing to burn./ Fiery capillaries of copper, cobalt, gold’ (from ‘A drink of glass’).

And then there’s the great Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid, with his strange combination of the geological and the political;

Red granite and black diorite, with the blue

Of the labradorite crystals gleaming like precious stones

In the light reflected from the snow; and behind them

The eternal lightning of Lenin’s bones.

(The Skeleton of the Future)

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