These three sonnets are taken from ‘Sketches from the Sierra de Tejeda’ (in Andalusia), a sequence of forty-one sonnets John Fuller published with the Clutag Press in 2013. At first glance the poems are civilised holiday sketches by one of the most technically versatile and accomplished living poets. Read and re-read them, however, and they fall away, like our own littorals, into astonishing and quite frightening deeps.

– Grey Gowrie


Here in the bay at Cañuelo, where
The waves lick at their stubborn lollipop
Of hot pale stones, I stand like a billionaire
Of sunlight, slowly gazing round, then flop
As I have done so often, over and over,
From similar beaches into similar seas,
Rapallo, Rhodes, Parsal and Villanova,
Guardian sites of sacred contraries.

And so I feel as though I’ve taken all
My life to make those plunges, all my years
To burst up through a wave, shaking a halo
Of salty spray and streaming, as I stand tall,
From shoulders, forehead, hair and nose and ears,
As now, here in the bay at Cañuelo.


Look at the mocking musculature of trees:
Those olives, bowed as ancient men, defiant
Sticks grasped in the dust. And oddities
Like those down at the coast, contorted giant
Ombús of white Nerja, whose great roots
Bulging out behind, trailing in front,
Resemble knotted pipes or bulging boots
Or a reconstituted elephant.

Imagining the stillness in an ache,
A sense of place in our unrootedness
Or beauty in repeated shapes of skin
Reminds us that the motions that we make
Are a strange luxury of matter, less
Likely than the bodies we are in.

Words and Pages

A word is like the pieces of a line
That breaks to make a symbol of the shapes
That it describes, itself a shape, a sign
Of what it represents. The “g” of “grape”’s
Two grapes upon a stem, perhaps, but now
Merely the g of g-ness when the tongue
Needs it. But tongues can see, and this how
We speak and write the things we live among.

Pages remind us of the days we waste,
Numbered and finite, but with nothing on them.
The sketchbook life seems hardly serious,
But still the pages come. Each colour placed
And every little line we’ve drawn upon them
Has something of the world that pleases us.


All sonnets from Sketches from the Sierra de Tejeda (Clutag Press, 2013)

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