Gavin Selerie

Floating Nous

What’s recovered in a bundle of papers:
our story told in another tongue
touted as real.  When Virgil’s a magician
talking to a brass head you need to finger
the text removed, if it takes nine years
or more.  And then there’s the crystal lens
with crossed blades on the field, not exactly
tropes for the ordinary.  She sat in a marble chair
at midnight, left this coat and disappeared
in smoke.  Well, such deeds are an invitation
to joke.  Just stand at the rim and look down—
elsewhere the scholars are mute statues
but here Avicenna rubs shoulders with Boethius
far and close, like organ notes in a chapter cell.


Voice Geometric

You think you’re outside
but you’re there in the folds,
the pearl tint of an olive tree
against a blue wall, wine tracing
a river-bed.  How surrounded
is a hand or eye with translation at stake.

Things are pitched metallic,
a gleaming blade from an archway,
a crucifix in a cabinet, a bed
painted with gold leaf.  You walk
this maze of pounded granite
in a fever to know, an actor
from a fossil theatre
seeking today’s word.


A photo from a great keyhole
in the Arch of Blood shows a dangling lantern
by windows garnished with flowers
and guarded with bars.

Nothing remains where the sappers came up—
courtyard, kitchen, balconied rooms
are a frolic novel squashed.

Buñuel is a priest wrapped in bed-sheets
who will never revisit.  A humorist
here is a bad fellow.

In agreeable retreat honey is too good
for a donkey’s mouth.
Banishing why with the table laid
giblets slither in a snow-heap of rice.


Reference points:

‘Floating Nous’: Cervantes, Don Quixote, II, 1.

‘Posada’: The Posada de la Sangre, frequented by Buñuel and fellow members of the ‘Order of Toledo’; formerly thought to have been the site where Cervantes wrote some of his Exemplary Novels; destroyed during Franco’s capture of Toledo, 1936.


Gavin Selerie was born in London, where he still lives. His books include Azimuth (1984), Roxy (1996), Le Fanu’s Ghost (2006) and Hariot Double (2016)—all long sequences with linked units.  These texts often have a visual dimension and Selerie has collaborated extensively with artist-poet Alan Halsey; he has also worked with musicians in performance.  Music’s Duel: New and Selected Poems 1972-2008 was published by Shearsman in 2009.  A Collected Sonnets is scheduled to appear in 2019.  Critical work includes studies of Charles Olson and Edward Dorn. Selerie’s memoir of the London poetry scene 1970-1989 appeared in Clasp, ed. Robert Hampson & Ken Edwards (2016).