Kevin Nolan

I just tried to read a freely available PDF of his available from Barque (“non-conformist poetry”, now seemingly past publishing, which is not sardonic of me, though I’m not sure what expectations are being defied – perhaps a certain style of reading, and one I currently go to, and will return to it at a later time: I feel almost prepared/primed for it).

I wanted to make an explorative comment about one word in his translation of Wei Kongyi (who could almost be anyone, as I google it, and I assume is Nolan ora friend of Nolan’s, now). The word is “fixity”, line 12 in full, which I read as ‘fluff’.

The poem is about the wind, so clouds likely come into it. Leaving aside Wordsworth’s most famous poem, I was thinking of Lee Harwood, who talks/writes about Brighton skies quite regularly, e.g.:

“the white cloud can be pictured like any other clouds or like a fist of wool or a white fur rose”

In a more low brow sense, I was reminded of the Bristol song “little fluffy clouds” and the children’s TV cartoon character Bob the Builder fixing things. There is also the idea of poetry as a fix, be that addiction or artifice, which, like its etymology, I don’t think needs referring to a body of work, be that romantic or modernist (Harwood, I recall, often writes about the radio). The root of ‘fix’ is in the latin ‘fluxus’, which seems – I am just going from wiktionary – to add the sense of ‘immovable’ (hyperbole) to its English sense, and close to ‘dig’, quite amusingly if you want to groove. ‘Fluff’, which can also be spelt ‘flew’, is of uncertain origin, and earlier referred explicitly to ‘lint’, which currently includes explicit reference to the navel, as well as cotton and a stronger fibre, flax.

Clearly, Nolan is showing off.

But what amazes me is how I was able to seem coherent about it, given I started with one word, I grounded in Lee Harwood’s writing about clouds.

“white clouds spelling a puffy word.”

It’s that oddness, that, whatever Nolan’s lexical skill, makes the poem for me, as much as the question of what the poem would be or mean if that wasn’t available to me, or, indeed, the ambiguity of what Nolan thinks – if indeed he does.