The Built Moment: And Accompanying Film: The Sea is an Edge and an Ending

Lavinia Greenlaw

Research output: Other contribution


My last collection, The Casual Perfect, focused on 'the achievement of the provisional'. In the near decade since writing those poems, I have found myself exploring what we build out of the provisional: beginnings and endings, arrivals and departures, and the moments we fix as memories, fixing too their joy and pain. There are also reflections on thought, language and image as other kinds of framework or fixative.

The Built Moment is divided into two sections. The first, 'The Sea is an Edge and an Ending', is a sequence of poems about my father's disappearance into Alzheimer's. It is not a narrative of illness so much as a meditation on the metaphysics of memory loss. What does it mean only to exist in the present, for your sense of self to come loose and for the past to float free?

These poems were the basis for a short film I made in 2016, also called The Sea is an Edge and an Ending, which continues to be shown in galleries and at festivals. The film carries echoes of Shakespeare’s Tempest in its study of a man under a kind of spell, whose child must observe his strange and terrifying liberation. It moves from the shifting coastal landscape of the east of England, a geography central to my life and work, to eroded interiors containing only the bare structures and reduced emblems of this man’s life.

The second half of the book is called 'The Bluebell Horizontal'. If the first section is about loss (the verticals), this section is about possibility (the horizontals). It includes a prayer ('Men I Have Heard in the Night'), a blessing ('Fleur de Sel') and a speculation on why we cling on to pain ('The Break'). There are poems about Joy Division and David Bowie,and an elegy for my first love. There are structures that arrest remembering and forgetting - monoliths and oubliettes - and the fundamental arrest of a poet's difficulty with words. These poems are about what we make and hold onto and offer one another. They are also about how as we get older and death becomes more and more a part of life, what we build and what we break out of becomes more important than ever.
Original languageEnglish
Media of outputA book and accompanying film
PublisherFaber and Faber
Number of pages64
Place of PublicationLondon
ISBN (Print)9780571347100
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2019

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