‘For light of its very nature diffuses itself…’

‘For light of its very nature diffuses itself in every direction in such a way that a point of light will produce instantaneously a sphere of light of any size whatsoever, unless some opaque object stands in the way’

It sounds like a description of a photogram. In fact, it’s the second sentence of De Luce (On Light) by Robert Grosseteste (1168 – 1253), Bishop of Lincoln. I got it from an article in Poetry Nation Review (by Ian Brinton) about the Grosseteste Press, one of the small poetry presses set up in the 60s and 70s.

Among the poets they published was John James. I heard him read many years later, at the London Review Bookshop in February 2018, just three months before his death. To my ears, some of his poems read like evocative descriptions of photos. These two quotations are both from ‘Blues & Reverie’;

the grey brine where a surmised mind floats
submerged, looking up as if with eyes &
seeing beyond a shaken film of little breathing waves
a globe of light that swings down slow to
touch and test how air becomes
water, water air, – a difference
evaporates to mist
before the light’s approach

She takes my hand & leads me to a
shadowed room, a wall of which
is spanned with glass that shows the stars as bright & close as if
the cottage edged upon a flat earth’s precipice, beyond
nothing but the endless drifts of space & scattered galaxies &

Tenuous links maybe, but the sort of link I like.

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