Sunday, 9 March 2008

Merseyside poets - A. S. J. Tessimond

Poet-in-Residence continues with his research into the Mersey poets of yesteryear.
The only child of a bank inspector, Arthur Seymour John Tessimond was born in 1902 across the river from Liverpool in the ship-building port of Birkenhead. Childhood and school years were basically unhappy times. He ran away from Charterhouse School and stayed for a couple of weeks in London. Later in life he spent half of his inheritance on nightclub girls and striptease dancers and the other half on psychoanalysis. It's possible that electric shock therapy may have sparked the brain haemorrhage from which he died at the age of 59. During his troubled existence he managed to publish three collections of poems. His literary executor Hubert Nicholson recalls him as 'an elegant, fair, mannerly figure, at large with a rolled umbrella in the big city streets' in search of an 'unperplexed, unvexed time.'
What exactly did A. S. J. Tessimond find in those 'big city streets'? The following poems may serve to give some idea; a keyhole into his life as it were.

Wet City Night

Light drunkenly reels into shadow;
Blurs, slurs uneasily;
Slides off the eyebally:
The segments shatter.

Tree-branches cut arc-light in ragged
Fluttering wet strips.
The cup of sky-sign is filled too full;
It slushes wine over.

The street-lamps dance a tarantella
And zigzag down the street:
They lift and fly away
In a wind of lights.


Cats no less liquid than their shadows
Offer no angles to the wind.
They slip, diminished, neat through loopholes
Less than themselves; will not be pinned

To rules or routes for journeys; counter
Attack with non-resistance; twist
Enticing through the curving fingers
And leave an angered empty fist.

They wait obsequious as darkness
Quick to retire, quick to return;
Admit no aim or ethics; flatter
With reservations; will not learn

To answer to their names; are seldom
Truly owned till shot or skinned.
Cats no less liquid than their shadows
Offer no angles to the wind.

Not Love Perhaps

This is not Love perhaps - Love that lays down
Its life, that many waters cannot quench, nor the floods drown -
But something written in lighter ink, said in a lower tone:
Something perhaps especially our own:
A need at times to be together and talk -
And then the finding we can walk
More firmly through dark narrow places
And meet more easily nightmare faces:
A need to reach out sometimes hand to hand -
And then find Earth less like an alien land:
A need for alliance to defeat
The whisperers at the corner of the street:
A need for inns on roads, islands in seas, halts for discoveries to be shared,
Maps checked and notes compared:
A need at times of each for each
Direct as the need of throat and tongue for speech.

A. S. J. Tessimond (1902 - 1962)

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