“A poet of fantastic inversions.” Poetry London

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‘Sequence’ by Jamie McKendrick

I’m using this poem in an MA class this week – offering it, perhaps unfairly, as the archetypal literary sequence in miniature. I don’t think that’s what it set out to be; the title is punning on ‘quince’ and the whole thing is obviously an extension of that joke (15 lines in total; ‘quince’ is Spanish for 15). But it does serve my purpose. Despite it being made up of individual, haiku-esque tercets, there are strong indications of time passing between each stanza: fruiting follows flowering, ‘Exile’ begins “By now”, and reference is made to ‘transience’. I’m not sure what to make of the weird chronological inversion whereby oil paints turn up long after an iPhone, or the sudden appearance of Shakespearean English – perhaps, in keeping with the theme of renewal, the history of the world is cycling round and round.

The word ‘quince’ repeats throughout like a series of haphazard stitches, and softer echoes of that word are frequent: ‘one’, ‘borne’, ‘whence’, ‘wind’, ‘since’, ‘white’, ‘sweeten’. Hence we have the essence of the sequence, how it differs from a narrative: something is being held in place, squirmingly, even as everything around it changes.

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