Leicester Kyle: A Safe House for a Man (2000)

Jack Ross, ed.: Spin 36 (March 2000)

A Safe House for a Man, by Leicester Kyle, Millerton, c/o Postal Agency, Ngakawau, Buller, 88pp, January 2000.

Leicester Kyle: A Safe House for a Man (2000)

The familiar gets
Exceptional when you like it.

It’s difficult to be objective about your friends’ work. Or rather, it’s difficult to say exactly what one thinks about it without either hurting their feelings or being accused of running a mutual admiration society. Leicester Kyle and I are good friends, and I’ve praised his poetry in print in no uncertain terms (most notably, in Pander 6/7 (1999) 21-23).

Having made this preamble, I feel that A Safe House for a Man is his very best work to date. There’s nothing recondite or difficult about the diction of this long semi-narrative piece. The intricate processes of separation, self-analysis, and acknowledgement of loss are sorted through with beauty and precision. Everyday events recur at once casually and hauntingly in the patterning. This is, I feel, a wise poem, which might provide solace – or at least companionship – to many men in similar circumstances. I say “men” because part of the intention of the piece seems to be to providing ideological models for his own sex. This is not really to confine its intended readership, though. We all have certain experiences of loss in common, and how can one achieve empathy without understanding?

The long title poem is accompanied by two others: “The Araneidea” – a rather creepy account of how to “make good-looking, sightly cabinet objects” from live spiders – and “Threnos” – a moving elegy for the poet’s wife Miriel. They are thematically associated with the title piece, and flesh it out into a book which reminds us what this whole poetic enterprise is about – just how much can be achieved, here and now, by dedication and ingenuity.


Spin 36 (2000): 62.
[Available at: Leicester Kyle: Index (2011)]

[291 wds]

Spin 36 (2000)

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