80 pages (1996),
cover image ‘Pearson Park’ by Ted Tarling.
Frank Redpath (1927 – 1990) was born in Hull: he lived for some years in London, where he worked as a writer for children’s comics, but returned to Hull, where he taught at the College of Further Education. Frank and John Wakeman (co-founder of The Rialto) were friends, they’d met in London in younger days, and there’s a lovely poem in the book, ‘New Year Visit’ dedicated to John and his wife Hilary. Frank was putting together a collection of poems, a follow-up to his first collection To The Village (Sonus, 1986) when he died. John took over as editor and How It Turned Out was published, with help from the Esmee Fairbairn Charitable Trust and the, then, Eastern Arts Board, in 1996.
The book has a four page critical introduction by Sean O’Brien who, noting that Frank was a good deal more interested in writing poems than in publicising his existence, says that he hopes it will ‘finally bring him the readership that his fine, skilful, thoughtful poems deserve’. Sean’s conclusion is ‘the knowledge… that there are things only poetry can say, seems to have been Frank Redpath’s reason for writing’. Douglas Dunn calls his work ‘the poetry of Everyman’.
Much of the poetry, with the exception of the remarkable ‘Transit Camp,’ is quiet, mundane, domestic (never, somehow, domesticated). But the questioning, the examining consciousness is always there
- I wonder if all life will come to seem like this -
Sharply recalled for no good reason: puzzling, powerless. ‘Vacancies’, page 67.
This was The Rialto’s first adventure in book publishing so, in our optimistic innocence, we printed quite a large edition. There are still a few copies left at the remarkable ‘those were the days’ price of £6.95, including post and packing.
Chaps of my age, who’ve learnt it’s better to
Stay fast asleep, half – wake at night and go
Fumbling along the landing to the loo;
Don’t switch the light on, sit to have a pee,
Lean on the opened door edge: so,
Try to preserve insensibility.
It never worked: the thin white cat would hear,
Who slept, long – legged and awkward on the stair.
Aloof by day, a stalking elegance
Who rarely purred, but sometimes would bestow
Favour upon my knee and butt my chin,
What I’ll miss now is that surprising ghost
Who’d march in there to join me, climb into
My dropped pyjama trousers, make a nest.
Absurd familiar I named Miss White,
Gone, now, taking your gift: laughter at night.
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