Seven Poems by Juleigh Howard-Hobson
Featured poet, March 2012
The New Formalist
Edited by Leo Yankevich
The poet, Jim Morrison, said “the west is the best,” and while I doubt he was referring to formalist poetry or the radical traditionalist sentiment, he captured the essence of both. Formal poetry, properly done, is Western Culture’s highest and best form of literary craft, and radical traditionalism is the prevailing sentiment that best appreciates the highest forms that Western Culture takes.
“Properly done” is the magic phrase. The set of Seven Poems by Juleigh Howard-Hobson, currently online at Leo Yankevich’s The New Formalist, are, to a one, quite properly done.
Four sonnets, of differing styles, a rondeau, a sestina, and a 21-line nonce piece make up the seven poems.
The first sonnet “Coming Upon A Stone Circle At Sunset” is perhaps the best of the lot, at least the best-known. It first appeared in the Asatru Folk Assembly’s publication The AFA Voice in 2006 and since then the poem has appeared in a variety of publications ranging from literary (Strong Verse) to alt-politic (The Occidental Quarterly) to specialized (Megalithic Poems), and back to spiritual (Sommer and Other Poems [RavensHalla Arts]).
The reason for the popularity of a sonnet such as this at a time when sonnets and traditional European spirituality are distinctly outré is self-evident. It is an outstanding work, containing unforgettable poetic images that stand smoothly, timelessly, with each word precisely placed much as the rocks the poem describes stand:
With ancient reasons more astute than ours
These stones were brought here, then precisely set.
Each in its place. Time moves, things change, rains pour
Suns rise and set, winter storms blow and roar,
These, encircled, change not. Only men forget.
The recognition that our past can vanish, sometimes without trace or care, is a theme that Howard-Hobson returns to again and again. The feeling of such a loss pervades “Ruined Cemetery”, which opens with a description of what is gone, no longer to be found:
Violets no longer grow in the shaded places
Here and there among the thick Victorian stones
And the more recently entered. There are no traces
That there ever were violets there.
This reviewer assumes the cemetery to be a poetic conceit standing for our whole Western world. I do not think I am assuming too much, considering how much of the Western world is encroached upon by alien cultures that are like:
. . . a tangled mess of burr covered stems — long
Busy with the task of wearing down the graves. Soon
There will be nothing here to see but them.
“I’ll Keep My Ghosts” breaks from the softly melancholy nature based sonnets, and offers, instead a strangely compelling rondeau.
. . . Who blames
Me for my preference? I make no claims
That they bring only joy, but even so
I’ll keep my ghosts.
To be haunted might not be completely desirable or perhaps particularly welcome . . . but the Poet says our ghosts must not be denied. It is a sacred choice we make when we decide that they remain close, come what may.
The sestina “Liverpool” and the sonnet “Autumn Craft” are both snug, comfortable poems that return the reader to the world of Northern nature, and of Northern folk ways, offering an amiable escape from the terser emotions of “I’ll Keep My Ghosts.” These are classic, hardy pieces, technically sound and drenched in imagery. “Autumn Craft” won a place in the top 5 poems of the year in the Predators and Editor’s Readers Poll 2008. That is a rare showing for a formal poem in the midst of the anti-rhyme, anything goes, world of modern poetics.
“The Last Werewolf” is a difficult poem. Not only is it written in a singular form, of 21 lines comprised of 5 quatrains and one last rhymed line, it holds, in this reviewer’s opinion, a double meaning. The surface gist of it is simple enough, that of a werewolf finally captured. It is the under meaning of it, though, that is more difficult. Does the Poet really mean a shape-changing wolf man or does the Poet, instead, refer to someone more tragic, perhaps one of the determined few of WW II? It is not up to anyone to say one way or the other, but either way, it is a very well-drawn and sympathetic poem, albeit with a final line that is coldly gut wrenching:
Guns were cocked. Dogs were set. And you were through.
This set of poems closes with a sonnet that is far more arcane than the rest (yes, even more arcane than the death of a werewolf), entitled “The Luck of The English.” This sonnet, interestingly, can be heard being read at Soundzine.com. The poem is extremely creepy to hear aloud as it is intoned in the voice of one of the creatures. This sonnet is straight out the heart of the Northern Tradition, concerned with our unseen ones or fairy folk, our “luck” as it were.
Some sense us, but no one will ever prove
Us. All you can do is know that you know:
We live with you, above, beside, below.
Howard-Hobson seems intent to remind us that the unseen ones are always with us, as are our traditions, our cultures and our folkways.
This is not multicultural modern globalist poetry intended for quick consumption by the masses. This is poetry for and about our world, in words that can only come from the heart of one of us. Not that the rest of the world can’t enjoy it or find something lovely within its lines and its images. If they can look past their general bias against the use of meter, form, and rhyme, that is.
This is traditional European formalist poetry written in the grand and long tradition of European formalist poetry that includes such luminaries as Shakespeare, Goethe, and Wordsworth. A tradition that runs right across to such modern masters of the craft as Yankevich, who edits The New Formalist, and Howard-Hobson, whose work in The New Formalist is being reviewed. Both of these great modern traditionalist Poets have graced the cyber pages of Counter-Currents with their works, and this reviewer, whose work has had the honor of appearing alongside them, hopes that they both continue to do so:
. . . so that the whole
Holds steady, and completed . . .