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Drop in by Chris Campbell

Today I welcome Chris Campbell to reflect upon a poem from his poignant new collection…

The title-poem of my recently published collection, White Eye of the Needle, captures a moment my now wife and I climbed into a landmark at the top of a piste on a ski trip. 

We took our skis off, left our poles and climbed up with a couple of friends into a rock formation called the ‘Eye of the Needle’ to admire the view and take photos. It was the first time my wife and I, who met that week, almost kissed, before we hurried back to ski down the mountain.

The ‘Eye of the Needle’ sits at over 2,700 metres in Tignes, France, and has a large hole through the middle. It looks down over the resort and there’s a tough black run on the other side. You can see the formation illustrated on the front cover and inside my collection.

There is also a religious connotation – the eye of the needle – about the difficulty of entering heaven as a rich person; the freeing of possessions to enter paradise. We took off our goggles and helmets for the photos, and placed them on the ground. It reminded me of treasure in an open chest – ‘cold’ both in terms of temperature, but also in accumulating too many possessions.

Couplets felt right to describe the rhythm of the moment; our climb and the sense of forming a new connection with each other. I hope this is enhanced by the use of enjambment and the poem’s uneven lines. 

I’m often inspired by the works of DH Lawrence, Dylan Thomas and ee cummings, and regularly go back to them. Particularly Lawrence’s ‘Green’ and Cummings’ ‘now is a ship’: ‘now is a ship//which captain am/sails out of sleep//steering for dream’.

There are a couple of ski-themed poems in White Eye of the Needle, which includes pieces written over a six-year period, covering previous travels, as well as recent lockdown pieces. The Eye of the Needle was completely worth the climb and one that I couldn’t help but put down in writing – as well as name the collection after!

Read my review of the stunning White Eye of the Needle next week.

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