“simple cells” by Mark Rutter; InkConcrete, United Kingdom, 2020; 72 pages, paperback, $6.26.

Readers who remember the now-retired Puckerbrush Review may be interested to find out that Mark Rutter, a frequent contributor to the magazine, is still hard at work in his home in England and has a new collection of poems, “simple cells.”

UMaine professor Constance Hunting founded the influential Puckerbrush Review in 1978, editing and publishing it until her death in 2006; Sanford Phippen then took up the reins for six more years, and the last issue appeared in 2012, a long and distinguished run for a small literary magazine. Rutter, who taught writing at the UMaine Orono and UMaine Machias in the 1990s and 2000s, is a poet well-known to Puckerbrush and Down East readers. He returned to his native England in 2003 and now teaches at the University of Winchester, but has summered every year in Surry (until the pandemic struck) and retains ties to Tatlin Press, a fine arts hand-press publisher in Bangor. Maine remains on his mind.

Rutter’s book “Bashō in Acadia” (2014) focuses on “the wild landscape of the Maine coast” in fairly conventional, evocative open form verses, sentences and imagery (“Snow has etched the woods into / a pattern like shattered glass,” opens “February Madness”). But “simple cells” is a different kind of poetic animal. Partly found poetry, partly linguistic curiosity, the simple entries throughout the book might best be described as words at play, with nature and its mysteries often in mind.

There are acrostics, allusive notes (“spots of time / sprigs of thyme”), ee cummings riffs with postmodern twists (“deer / run // through / the // spa / ces // bet / ween // words”), orthographic curiosities (“regret / egret”), lists (“left in maine”), visual poems (the word “noise” stacked three across and five deep with the slot in the center

 

blank), wry observations (“birdwatching // begins in delight / ends in taxonomy”) and some recurring playful irony — in a sort of understated A.E. Housman-like way, “creative writing” goes:

 

“Bashō in Acadia” by Mark Rutter; Flarestack Poets, United Kingdom, 2014; 36 pages, saddle-stitched, £4.50.

the poem-mill

grinds hour by hour

our flesh to pulp

our skulls to flour

 

One of the book’s straight-up found poems, “Einstein,” says:

 

‘If a person falls freely

he won’t feel his own weight

this was the happiest

thought of my life’

 

(found: a newspaper interview with Einstein)

Indeed, this lightness of being suffuses the whole book, making it a stroll through the woods of language guided by a word-naturalist. It’s the kind of book poets, and other inklings, keep within easy reach whenever a fall into daylight is needed.

Mark Rutter lives in New Forest in southern England, with his wife, Robin Furth, also a Puckerbrush contributor, poet and fantasy and comics writer who worked as an assistant to Stephen King and compiled the definitive concordance to King’s Dark Tower series. Rutter’s other collections of poetry are “The Farmhouse Voices” (Puckerbrush Press) and “water fir rook hand” (Tatlin Press). “Bashō in Acadia” and “simple cells” are available through online book sellers.

 

Off Radar takes note of poetry and books with Maine connections the first and third Thursdays of each month. Dana Wilde is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. Contact him at [email protected]

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