Andrew’s In won the Forward First Collection Prize in 2000. It’s an amazing book: “his poetry reveals an absolute artistic seriousness and perfectionism” says Sean O’Brien.
Andrew’s suicide, just as his career as a poet seemed assured, was a huge shock to all who knew and loved him. In 2002 The Rialto published, as 2nd, the collection he’d been working on at the time of his death. Jo Shapcott’s comment was “the poems left to us deserve to be read well and read often”. I remember Andrew talking about wanting to write a long poem. This collection includes the poems he’d written, to a commission, about the Lindisfarne Gospels. It’s a sequence feeling it’s way to a long poem. But many of the poems here are short, pared back, pared to the core. His death is still hard to comprehend but ‘Butterfly on Stained Glass’, ‘The Illustrated Calf’, ‘The Darkhouse Keeper’ need to be in every anthology we, those of us writing now, make to help us go forward in our work.
Butterfly On Stained Glass
Church of St Mary The Virgin, Holy Island
is undecided, at the dead saint’s feet;
having rested well since October;
but now, needing more light and heat,
stumbles from brown sandals, to grey cowl,
to pink hand, then finds that clear glass
with blue sky behind, settles, and the sun
illuminates her outstretched wings:
each uncounted scale laid out between veins,
the red-orange sheen, black and yellow patches,
blue lunules on the margins
and I reach up
cup her in my hands, walk through old incense
from transept to porch, to the open door,
release her into this day, her unsteady wings
catching the light again over celandines
and gravestones and on towards the sea.
Andrew Waterhouse was born in Lincolnshire in 1958 and died in October 2001. He lived in Northumberland where he worked as a teacher and a freelance writer. He won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 2000. A second volume, 2nd, featuring poems Andrew was gathering into a collection at the time of his death was published in 2002.
‘I love Andrew Waterhouse’s poems for the pleasure they take in the language, their panache. They’re necessary poems: disturbing fables, intriguing anthropological investigations into life around the end of the century.’
‘The poems of Andrew Waterhouse bring together the landscape, the mind and the fragile connections between people. The ambitious mixture is sometimes disturbing, sometimes extraordinarily serene, but always compelling. The few remarkable poems left to us deserve to be read well and often.’
(The Rialto 2002)