‘This is varied but coherent collection, tender, imaginative and clear-eyed.’
— Carol Ann Duffy
Each night the sea covers the earth;
its waters rise above the sleeping houses.
Listen, its waves are engulfing the roof.
Tonight, sleepless, I am pulled between the wrecks of buildings,
around the coral of the sunken trees,
drowning slowly in the breathless night.
The sky is a vast ship passing above me,
barnacles stud its hull, one porthole shines.
— from Porthole
David Borrott was born and grew up in Ilford, Essex. He has had numerous jobs (the best was fruit-picking) and travelled widely. He now lives in Lancashire with his partner and their three sons. He has an MA in Poetry from Manchester Metropolitan University. His poetry has been anthologised in Watermark by Flax Books and in CAST: The Poetry Business Book of New Contemporary Poets.
‘David Borrott’s is a unique voice, and he creates unique views of familiar things in poems of calculated control and release. Curiosity and a wry intelligence combine with language of lush inventiveness to make poems filled with a fierce wonder. Porthole is a debut full of poems fresh and rich, poems you will want to read over and over.’ – Sarah Corbett
‘These poems act as portholes into other lives, ranging from domestic scenes such as emptying the dishwasher to foreign landscapes. Carefully observed yet vivid, David Borrott’s work often has a thread of dark humour and the sense of things never being quite what they seem will keep the reader surprised and delighted.’ – Kim Moore
On his writing
I wrote poems in my teens but really only started practising and studying poetry in my early 20’s, I am still studying, it is a large subject. My first textbooks were The Penguin Book of English Verse and Palgrave’s Golden Treasury. I think from there, I have moved grubbily through the soil of Modernist, 20th Century and Contemporary Poetry. As I grow older different interests come in to play. In my twenties I loved Dylan Thomas and Ted Hughes. But now such poets as Wallace Stevens and Elizabeth Bishop seem more considered: They are superlative at imagination and observation. I think that I have gained some influences from Scottish Poetry, Hugh MacDiarmid and Norman MacCaig. The poem is what is important and there are many contemporary poems that I love.
If the brain is our hardware and language our software then poems are not emails but programs meant to impinge on your operating system. They are patches or even malware; they tweak your consciousness to show you another view of things, to make clear from a different angle. As Elizabeth Bishop says ‘I was made at right angles to the world and I see it so. I can only see it so.’ Or as Wallace Stevens pronounces, with his usual grandiose flourish, ‘I am the necessary angel of earth,/
Since, in my sight, you see the earth again,/ Cleared of its stiff and stubborn, man-locked set.’ Poetry can be ameliorative, it can also be cathartic because, as Spinoza says, ‘Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it.’ Or to end bathetically, sometimes poems are small adventures to go on, little trips, a three minute Youtube video, drugless highs.
I try to get out of the house to write. I have a shed full of poetry books but it is cold in the winter. Sometimes I drive up one of my nearest hills; it is called Jeffrey Hill so it is very poetic. Or I sit in cafes. If I can’t write I get frustrated, but poetry tends to come in phases, like storms. Sometimes words will spark off an idea, sometimes it just crawls out of your ear. Sometimes I write about what I don’t know, the strangeness of the external world and the strangeness inside the head, but usually I write about what I do know even if it is just exploring the current moment of consciousness through its physical actions, the language that it floats upon and its background connections to our emotional and biological nature. Other topics are domesticity, mortality, art, sitting in cafes, cars, sheds.
This pamphlet was difficult to put together because it is not themed as such. The poems do not run in order, it is just a jumbled scrapbook of the last decade. Most of the poems are short. I think that haikus, for example, should be wrapped up then opened slowly like toffees. All short poems are best with a small time gap between them, even if it is just to chew and swallow them, but of course that gap is unavailable here.