... The Perseverance takes its title from a pub on Broadway Market, where Antrobus’s father used to drink, and from a fine sestina structured around the end-words: perseverance, minute, before, father, disappear, laughter. With the shuffling of these words, time is also shuffled, rendered irrelevant, or terribly relevant, but nevertheless an artefact. In the final tercet, before is carefully placed;
I still hear popping in for a minute, see him disappear.
We lose our fathers before we know it.
I am still outside THE PERSERVERANCE, listening for the laughter.
The phrase ‘listening for the laughter’ has power and nuance. Is there laughter, or not? Can Antrobus hear it? Is he listening for the ghostly laughter of the past? Is he ready to join in the bodily laughter that comes from joy? Is it ‘mirth [that] can laugh and talk, but cannot sing’ (James Thompson, quoted at the start of ‘Sound Machine’)? Both joy and grief are integral to this collection. A wild patience keeps Antrobus waiting outside The Perseverance, and the results are joyful, hospitable, generous and forgiving. He perhaps has even forgiven Ted Hughes, having blocked out the text of ‘Deaf School’ in a cathartic statement (‘Deaf School by Ted Hughes’), having written ‘After Reading ‘Deaf School’ by the Mississippi River’ (‘No one calls the river unaware or simple pools;’) and having won the 2018 Ted Hughes Award. Ultimately, Antrobus transcends his subject matter and the hearing world with engaging wisdom:
There is such a thing as a key confidently cut
that accepts the locks it doesn’t fit.
Call it a boy busking on the canal path singing
to no one but the bridges
and the black water under them.
(‘I Want the Confidence of’)