Michael Tolkien

somewhere is january  ( Perdika Press)

(publ in Ambit 194 autumn 2008){{Original, uncut version of essay}}

 Petrucci has said that his greatest passion is: ‘Being alive and paying attention.’ Both ingredients interact in this selection from an ongoing collection, i  tulip. It celebrates, directly or implicitly, sensual and mental alertness by being intensely focused on the process of creation, unexpected twists in a maze of impressions, and making these into surprising unities. The form can seem as spare as lengths of threaded verbal beads, and each poem unfolds at a staccato pace, sparsely punctuated and amounting to one whole utterance. We join the poet in stumbling on perceptions and parallels, in jerks, or leaps or in checking at puzzles and speculations.

    Images of the human anatomy and emotions are interwoven with a sense of the earth’s vitality, as in this simile from tulip. It flowers:

as many

-petalled pelvis

is eased by red birth


or womb could

split & leave

its black


& yellow baby standing

alert- ready almost


to speak...


Experience feels stripped down to something elemental, asking both literally and metaphorically when and where we are ‘in our element’. In days when sun , from a series where that planet dons many masks and roles, intrigued by a pattern of light, dust and laced shadow, the poet reflects on an impetus to be both of and apart from this inspiring moment (not unlike Keats’s ‘Now more than ever seems it rich to die…’)  Cutting away formal syntax and fusing artificially distinct areas of sensation or perception makes for a range of suggestions:

…dimming to its

last flare inspires dust-

lazy eddies in which i see my


maiden form as house all at

once swivels to a crystal

of beam and plaster


to catch brief

gleam of silence & if

i could i  would take that


thin wrist of dust-fix my

grip on it & lead me

out of the light.


  The poem i court this, a witty, sensuous, moving reflection on love-making, also illustrates this impression of converging imaginative and physical forces at work within us. Evening air and light filter into consciousness, bathroom and body, and generate simultaneous scientific speculation and sexual arousal:

…pane half open brings

two cousins of/

vapour: one


up nape of

west  blushing to

fragile pate: the other

here- spating my core

as if  i were its



its rate/ of heat &

now another form


within: water not as

gas or crystal

nor liquid


quite-/but percolating

pores of dilating earth


made upright & walking

its fourth estate  so

let coition


wait –that

oft-thrusting con

-undrum of dissolution…


The noun ‘spate’ is used verbally for the rush of adrenalin, and the phrase ‘fourth estate’ (colloquialism for the media) hints at the erection’s self-advertising intrusiveness! Petrucci often splits words in an enjambment to make each syllable (or sometimes even an initial consonant) carry an ingredient of meaning. Here con/-undrum implies the ‘con’ or deceit of sex while –undrum feels like the undeniable force.   We are at once ‘mental’ and ‘elemental.’



 This is a poet who grapples with the nature and texture of words themselves but is aware of a subconscious undertow in their choice and use, as we see in this metaphor from that it was there, which parallels this process with the growth of a naturally evolving personal relationship:


same way certain

words one


grows into flailing some

times fall cool with

own weight &

sleek as tails into long-lined rhyme…


(‘Sleek’ is both verb and adjective!)


  The last poem in this vivid, arresting (elegantly presented) chapbook perhaps comments on the abuse of language. Is it a plea for economy of expression where few words carry a wealth of nuances?


the night the world



they counted up-



one word too



Not a charge you’d level Petrucci’s verse where even the hiss of a sibilant counts!














Mario Petrucci