Chris Torrance

The poet Chris lives and writes in Pontneath-Vaughan, South Wales, writing of the myths and the landscape around him. I attended his splendid class 'Adventures in Creative Writing’  and am pleased to host his web page on this site..                                                                                                                                                            

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THE MAGIC DOOR, a complete collection of the earliest published books of Chris Torrance’s ongoing poem cycle has recently been published by Test Centre publications with an introduction by Phil Maillard. THE MAGIC DOOR  covers the years from 1970, when the poet moved to a cottage in the Neath Valley in South Wales, to 1996. 

THE MAGIC DOOR is available from  www.testcentre.org.uk  for £30 plus P&P

Allen Fisher writes “For nearly fifty years  The Magic Door has transformed spontaneity with exact clarity- a vibrant entry through research in geology in history in hearsay - propelled into lyric and kept assured and frail in structural change - a sustained poetry of questions and unsure answers in complexity delicately pulled together into a confident diction.”

 Anne Bryan writes: I feel that the poem  (for Lis)  illustrates this.   

            (For Lis)

        

        dance of silver lines

        from twig to twig


        powder pyramid 

         of gnats


        deconstructed

        by the breeze


        rebuilds 

        again 


        hear 

        the music, see 


        the flying forces 

        bridge to 


                 THOTH 


        architecture of the 

        mathematical 


        purity, truth,

        level, economics


        dry as dust a ghostweave

        in halted planes of light

Biographical information by Chris Torrance I am Scots born, but by the late 40's my family had moved to the London area. I left school at 15 and worked for law firms in London and Surrey before giving up the law in 1965 to concentrate on my writing. This resulted from my meeting a bunch of other young people in Carshalton known as the Mob, with whom I collaborated in publishing a magazine called ORIGINS DIVERSIONS.   By now I was working as a labourer for the Parks Department.

I could have been a   musician, I supposed, but that wasn't encouraged at home.   As far as I was concerned, poetry could be like jazz, be close to that spirit of boldly improvising on a theme.   To do that I needed technique, structure & direction. In this connection my meetings with Lee Harwood through the small magazine network were hugely influential.  Lee worked in Better Books, in Charing Cross Road & was able to introduce me to the work of many new poets who  were appearing on the scene.   The other big influence was the famous anthology THE NEW AMERICAN POETRY 1945- 60 edited by Don Allen. It was here that I found the poetics I needed.

I met Val, my wife-to-be, at an evening class (on T.S.Eliot) in 1966. We got married during a 3 year stay in Bristol. By 1970 we were living in an isolated farmhouse in Wales & learning how to be self-sufficient.  I began the long serial poem THE MAGIC DOOR, which continues to the present day and which has just been published by Test Centre www.testcentre.org.uk with an introduction by Phil Maillard and note from Allen Fisher “For nearly fifty years  The Magic Door has transformed spontaneity with exact clarity- a vibrant entry through research in geology in history in hearsay - propelled into lyric and kept assured and frail in structural change - a sustained poetry of questions and unsure answers in complexity delicately pulled together into a confident diction.”

Val left in 1976, & we agreed to an amicable divorce.  Although I considered leaving the farmhouse, the pull of the garden anchored me, & later that year I was offered a part time job as a tutor of Creative writing at UC Cardiff, a class that became ADVENTURES IN CREATIVE WRITING.  This in turn led to performance-orientated activities of CABARET 246, & the publishing of over a dozen issues of CABARET 246 magazine, published by Red Shark Press.

I met musician-composer Chris Vine in the mid-1980s, with whom I formed the poetry& music band POETHEAT, later to be renamed HEATPOETS. The Thatcher years were in full swing, & much of what I wrote then was fuelled by the events of those years, often angry poems utilising the prophetic tones of voice I had heard Allen Ginsberg using, and later Anne Waldman.

ADVENTURES IN CREATIVE WRITING finished in 2001, but HEATPOETS have remained active, with albums on CD & other formats, & live performances. I wrote a piece on the influence of jazz on my poetry for online mag JUNCTION BOX in 2012. A mini-autobiography appears in CUSP (Shearsman Press 2012) a compilation edited by Geraldine Monk which has contributions from many other UK poets. 


HEATPOETS current CD and booklet contains a highly compressed version of my book, RORI: A BOOK OF THE BOUNDARIES.  The theme of RORI is of one of those giants of the landscape who figure in myth and legend. The giant is a wise fool who at first succeeds  Then he is tempted. He falls, is pronounced dead; he dreams of the tomb, then - perhaps like Osiris, he resurrects.

Here are some critical judgements of Chris Torrance's work:

Written episodically over the past 35 years, Chris Torrance's exploration of myth and landscape in prose and verse is a buried treasure. The Magic Door is the overall title of an ongoing long sequence in prose and verse by Chris Torrance, a Scottish born, London-reared, resident of Wales, and is a work very much in the tradition of Ezra Pound, David Jones, Charles Olson, and the Beats.

This is one of those very interesting works that have been quite systematically written out of the official view of contemporary British poetry. If Torrance was American, he would be a cult figure. But he's British and almost totally neglected". Billy Mills, The Guardian 2008

His influence has been enormous on "unconventional" poets in South Wales, especially while he was running his "Adventures in Creative Writing" class at Cardiff University. Poetry is a pulsing, vibrant thing to Chris Torrance  he walks the walk - and moves in multiple contexts: the beats yes, open field, but also the tradition of radical sublime from the bards through Blake to urban deejay vigour." Graham Hartill

Working together since 1985, Torrance and Vine have developed a startlingly contemporary form of poetry with-music. No broody basses or folky acoustics here; these are versatile, muscular and lyrical soundscapes which, while sidestepping obvious definitions, are influenced by rock, rap, free improvisation and European art music". Planet: The Welsh Internationalist

THE MAGIC DOOR is available from Test Centre publications  www.testcentre.org.uk for £30 plus P&P

 The CD of RORI by HEATPOETS UB is available from Chris Vine contact cwvine@gmail.com

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