Mark Eustice was an accomplished poet and an instrumental figure in the creation of what was to become the wordworx creative writing studio. He was the first author to be published by us. Mark sadly passed away on December 4th 2016 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, following a long battle against a rare liver condition. He was 58 years old.
Prior to this, he had recently seen his first two books of poetry published and completed a further three manuscripts for future publication as well as a collection of recordings. We hope that readers will cherish these outstanding works and that thanks to them, Mark will be remembered long into the future.
Many would describe the poetry of Mark Eustice as photography with words.
He is able, through his skill with word and form, to capture the unspoken; to verbalise the unsaid, the gaps between our words. His body of work presents a remarkable exploration of what may be described as modern, organic poetry.
His work is evocative, thought-provoking and profound, and yet balanced by his interjections of sharp and often self-mocking humour.
Whilst the majority of his work reflects his life in Britain, the influence of his foreign travels taking in a diverse range of destinations including France, Poland and San Francisco among others also plays a significant part in shaping his work.
Books by Mark Eustice
An Interview with Mark Eustice
1. In your book ‘Grammatical Structure’, you refer to many places, both in the UK and abroad. However, Brighton is a town that comes across as being particularly significant. Could you tell us more about your relationship with Brighton and its significance in your life?
I lived there for a number of years. Brighton has an energy born from its strong sense of identity. It has the ‘Downs’ to the north and the sea to the south. Hills allow numerous vantage points throughout the city. I never tire of glimpsing the sea as it sparkles at the end of a shadowed terrace of houses (see ‘Kemp Town’). People live there because they choose to live there, not just because the job took them there or because they grew up there and never moved away.
2. When did you begin writing poetry, and what was the initial inspiration?
My first poems were written in 1978. I wanted to capture the energy I had as a young man. I wanted to capture the sheer joy of being alive!
3. Which poems in the book are your favourites, and why?
I think a number of poems show a controlled expression. These include ‘right-angle’, ‘solution’, ‘heartbeat’, ‘measurement’ (12/8/03), ‘the matter in question’, ‘transcription’, ‘coming to fruition’, ‘touching distance’, ‘Avenue de la République’, ‘outfit’, and ‘Zielona Góra’. Most of them attempt to describe the grace of living. ‘Emerson Valley’ won a prize. I like ‘the delight’ for being simple yet, at the same time, quite dense with resonance. Not even the title is wasted!
4. How would you describe your style of writing?
My style tends to move between two poles – a jazz-like flow where the tension is in the words (particularly in resonances and consonantal repetitions) and a spare understatement where the tension lies in the spaces. An emotionally involved poem would tend to produce the first style. For me tension equals resistance, equals energy. I feel that the relationship between the poem’s elements is more important than its theme. The poem must have movement even if the movement is implied by the things not said.
5. You make reference to music in your work. What are your tastes in music, and has music had an influence on your work?
I can feel a similar tension at work in jazz-rock pieces like Santana’s ‘Song of the Wind’ where the rhythm and melody form two references between which the lead guitar can interweave. It’s about pulling away and then resolving the instabilities caused by this movement. Choral music does something similar with harmony. I like Tim Story’s piano miniatures from the 1980s for their simplicity and beauty.
6. Education is the subject of a number of poems. How would you describe your school experience, and to what extent has this affected or influenced your work?
I have worked in the education / training field for a number of years. This is the source of the references.
7. In your book there are a small number of people who appear to have had a particularly significant impact on your life. Which individual would you say has had the single biggest influence on your life, and why?
If you single out certain people, then you risk upsetting those you omit to mention. I don’t set out to write about anybody in particular.
8. The front cover of ‘Grammatical Structure’ was designed by you. What can you tell us about the design?
The idea of a ‘functional’ cover is to bookend the playful and human aspects of the poems within (the poems being the melody that sits on top of the rhythm). Tim Story’s ‘Three Feet from the Moon’ album cover had similar colours & I liked the mix.
9. The poems in ‘Grammatical Structure’ span the entire Thatcher period in the UK. What effect do you think Thatcher’s government had on your life, and did this have an effect on your work?
I don’t enjoy writing ‘political’ poems. The nearest I come to a political statement is ‘decayed’.
10. Many of your poems have a photographic quality to them. You also make reference to photography on many occasions. Can you tell us about your feelings towards photography as a means of expression, and whether you have explored it as a medium?
I like the idea of the ‘frozen’ moment and a lot of my poems can be regarded as snapshots or cross-sections of the moment. To me a photograph or a poem is a way of ‘unfolding’ the world. Both mediums require a conscious use of frame.
11. In the poem’ ground’ you describe a memory of you and your brother. ‘Memorial’ is the only other occasion in ‘Grammatical Structure’ in which you explicitly mention your family (“My father’s remark couldn’t even be considered news”). What can you tell us about your relationship with your family and its influence on your work?
The question is similar to No.7 and I’d feel obliged to answer it in the same way.
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I would now like to expand on my answers to questions 3 & 4 by offering some examples.
I suggested in question 3 that a number of my poems set out to describe ‘the grace of living’. It will be obvious that some of them treat this theme from a reverse angle, through explorations of depression or stilted behaviour, or through comic episodes like the one described in ‘double-take’. It is often our failings that light up what it is to be human.
My answer to question 4 referred to consonantal repetition (‘pararhyme’ to give it its correct title) in creating a jazz-like flow. If the consonants remain in place but the vowel sounds are modulated, the words seem to swerve – like the ‘gone’ & ‘gain’ of ‘platform’ (signifying, perhaps, the effect of doppler shift in the sound of the passing train).
I often use resonance to pick out rhythms or highlight themes. In ‘Supermarket’ the resonance of ‘in accidental…’ with ‘inexact identities…’ suggests a clinging together as here the mass of shadow resolves itself in the detail of individual people once the eyes have adjusted to the light. The impact of the final ‘density’ is heightened by the earlier ‘identities’.
I also mentioned the need for movement & how, in poetry, this can often be implied. Tension (or movement) can be felt in a tightly-cropped line for example. It can be felt when the initial meaning of a poem’s title is modified by the unfolding text, just as it can be implied by impending actions that lie outside the poem’s frame (e.g. ‘Pictures not taken’). Tension is expressed whenever meaning is stretched across a surface of words and pegged down by the grammatical conventions of language.