Littoral by Giles Goodland

I found this book through the Oxford English Dictionary, which quotes from the book for the definition of the following words: alterne (n); letty (adj.); old land (n); pack (n1); pantheistical (adj); piend (n); planated (adj); puberulent (adj); quop (v); rames (n); ravel (n2); remanent (adj); resection (n); ripple mark (n); ruga (n); rush (n1); tardigrade (n and adj). Tardigrade was the word I was looking up, and I was intrigued by the title in the quotation, and so ordered it through interlibrary loan. Several weeks later it arrived from Trinity College, Dublin. A slim volume with a lovely cover and a less-lovely interior design that could not be taken from the library that had acquired it for me, I found a corner near a window and began to read.

This appears to be the poet’s first book, though according to his biographyon the Salt Publishing website he has several others. And this is a book that I read with the OED open in front of me. Puverulent (Consisting of or having the form of powder or dust). Arenaceous (Having the appearance or consistency of sand; sandy; largely composed of sand or quartz grains). It’s clear that he is, as his biography says, a lexicographer. And I’m a sucker for obscure, rich, sonorous vocabulary. Still, something about these verses seem to be more about showing off than creating a sensation, semantic or resonant.

I am intrigued by the alteration between verse and prose, with the modernist affectations of abbreviation and elision (th instead of the, yr instead of year, etc.). But the verse, despite the obfuscation of the archaic vocabulary, falls so readily into the empty pastoral threaded through with a seemingly easy and unquestioned nostalgia for a glorious history.

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