Literary Critic and Poet
My collected poems and short stories
I have given the title Risk to my collected poems not only because there happens to be a poem of that name, but because several of the poems could have had that name. I believe that perhaps the primary function of the imagination is to correct or compensate for defects or imbalances in the psyche - particularly in one's 'normal' behaviour and life-mode. One of my many defects is that I have always lacked the courage to take enough risks. The opposite of risk-taking is insulation, which modern life offers us in many forms. But the more successfully the layers of insulation protect us from what we perceive as dangers, the more we are cut off from what Blake called the 'Energies', with which the imagination seeks to put us back in touch. Certainly my own poems seem to have homed in on this defect, often quite unintentionally.
Of course the very act of writing a poem is an act of risk-taking - a
leap into the unknown, which probably explains why, though I have nearly
always been pleasantly (if disturbingly) surprised by my own poems, I
have written so few.
Though several of my poems have been published in magazines, there has been only one small collection, The Reef (1980), which is now a collector's item, not for the poems but for the beautiful introduction by Ted Hughes, an essay on simplicity in poetry unpublished elsewhere. There Hughes wrote:
Keith Sagar's verse is manifestly plain. When I first met these pieces, I could not put my finger on just what it is in them that rings so true, and that kept bringing me back to look at them again, and that gave me such a definite pleasure when I did. I could recognize in them, everywhere, his special brand of humour (serious) and the way it blends into the fascinated attention that he brings to whatever interests him. I could also sense and enjoy his very original and private relationship to the natural world. I felt there was a real person in these poems. And I appreciated his quiet skill - the deft and solid simplicity of his patterns. Again and again, with the baldest economy, he seemed to me to get it just right. But what surprised me most of all, I think, was the way these parables, and cool sinister anecdotes, the microscopically exact fish in their intent lives, even his brief pensees, have touched that place in my imagination where some folk-rhymes, some archaic and some modern pieces of art, certain tribal objects, certain slightly occult experiences, live together on the other side of personality and fashion and many a grander cultural monument. Poems that move towards that world seem to me to be very much worth creating and having.
Most of the poems in Risk were published on 14 June 2004 by the Arrowhead Press under the title Mola.
These poems are now withdrawn from Risk, leaving only the commentary on how some of the poems came to be written, the short story ‘The Beast’, and a set of 26 little nonsense poems for children ('Animal Crackers').
Playing at God (1984)
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