One Summer

In early July, Blackbird Poetry published Richard Jurgens’ exquisite collection of love poems entitled One Summer. Among those who took especial delight in the book was the poet and editor Richard Livermore, whose online magazine Ol’ Chanty has graciously given this website permission to post his highly favorable review.

One Summer by Richard Jurgens
Blackbird Poetry, Postbox 10711, 1011 ES Amsterdam. The Netherlands
ISBN: 978-90-815 180-1-7

Richard Jurgens is a poet who was born in South Africa and was active at one point in the ANC. He now lives in Amsterdam and was the founding editor of Amsterdam Weekly. This collection is a sequence of 26 love poems, designed – if that’s the right word – to throw you off balance in a sort of circuitous, roundabout way. The off-beat meandering manner is very infectious and seems particularly well fitted to explore the ins and outs of a sexual relationship without too much concern for a syntax of closure, so that the poems can feel a bit like John Ashberry at times, although they are less open-ended and very different in tone and intent. Their wanderings ‘off topic’ always bring you back to his main subject in the end, as if they were just temporary digressions in a convoluted narrative. Part of the secret, of course, lies in a complete absence of punctuation to signal where the narrative ends and the digression begins,

well then we drank more wine
and talked about lots of things
and then we went to bed
man and girl
maiden and minotaur
and if I am standing at my window now
thinking of your nakedness
in the half light last night
it is because I’d like to make
your image last forever

for the moment though
I’ve brewed fresh tea
and left some hot croissants
on the kitchen table

There is clearly a narrative in these poems, but it is a rather fractured one in which memory is often interrupted by what’s happening at the moment, or what happened at some other time or some other thought that suddenly occurs in midstream as it were. And there are often many amusing asides such as

and maybe there’s something in the English soul
that’s drawn to secrets and evasion
as if the nation were one vast boarding school
but anyway she’s certainly proficient
at countering surveillance

which, considering recent developments in state-surveillance under New Labour, is also quite pregnant.

Jurgens’ work is enjoyable because, with its ‘will to digression’, it is constantly presenting us with surprises which keep our attention right to the end. It is certainly worth checking out.

Richard Livermore

Initially published in issue no. 4 of Ol’ Chanty (Chanticleer Magazine online), October 2010