Even though David Miller’s stories are full of conscious, indeed self-conscious choices, the writer himself is completely unselfconscious, at least to the extent that he doesn’t give a brass monkey what the enemy thinks. He is being himself. His discourse is natural to him, musician and writer. His tone of voice is cool; the unexpected turns in the plot, the apparently false then righted moves, are redolent of improvisations familiar from free jazz.
I love the constant inconsistency of the book—its author keeps it going, meandering, moving forward and ... its final outcome does not even come as a surprise to us, as it tends to be an entirely different, consistent piece of writing, different from the previous pages of An Envelope. In the end of the book the reader finds almost fifty pages meticulously written on the life and times of Gérard de Nerval, the French Romantic, mystical poet who changed the spirit of French letters as he believed in Dream and not Cartesian logic. He believed in Life as well and also in the capacity to preserve the living memory of Life beyond Death, beyond the disappearing and the vanishing. As a French historian indicated once “no one better than Nerval could break those impenetrable doors made of ivory which lead us to the realm of the imaginary.” In his last piece but one, somewhat like his master Nerval, David Miller has reached and penetrated indeed those perfect and persistent invisible doors.
The poet David Miller has worked across genres throughout his career, with writings that challenge conventional boundaries between poetry, short story, life writing and essay. This tendency remains apparent in many of his recent publications: the “children’s stories for adults” in Towards a Menagerie (Tucson: Chax Press, 2019), which engage with historical writers and artists encountered by the tales’ animal heroes; the collaging of autobiographical fragments and theological reflection in his magnificent prose poem sequence Spiritual Letters (London: Contraband, 2017 / NY: Spuyten Duyvil, 2022); and, as editor, The Alchemist’s Mind (Hastings: Reality Street, 2012), his anthology of narrative prose by poets. The UK poetry scene has, in recent years, become increasingly interested in interdisciplinary, genre-crossing modes such as “creative criticism.” (…) David Miller has pioneered such practices in a series of writings dating back to the 1970s. (…) Each genre recognises its double, its othered self, in the moment of cross-genre encounter. Poetry manifests in the wordless strokes of a painting; art history is reflected in the pages of children’s fiction; autobiography is sublated in the service of literary criticism, yet becomes truer as autobiography by virtue of having humbled itself. On each occasion, one genre looks into its own eyes when it meets another, becoming more interesting and greater in its own terms through giving itself over to what once seemed external to it.
David Miller was born in Melbourne, Australia, but has lived in the UK for many years. His recent publications include Black, Grey and White: A Book of Visual Sonnets (Veer Books, 2011), Reassembling Still: Collected Poems (Shearsman, 2014), Towards a Menagerie (Chax Press, 2019), Matrix I & II (Guillemot Press, 2020), Afterword (Shearsman, 2022), Circle Square Triangle (Spuyten Duyvil, 2022), Some Other Shadows (Knives Forks and Spoons, 2022) and Spiritual Letters (Spuyten Duyvil, 2022). He has compiled British Poetry Magazines 1914-2000: A History and Bibliography of ‘Little Magazines’ (with Richard Price, The British Library / Oak Knoll Press, 2006) and edited The Lariat and Other Writings by Jaime de Angulo (Counterpoint, 2009) and The Alchemist’s Mind: a book of narrative prose by poets (Reality Street, 2012). He is also a musician and a member of the Frog Peak Music collective; as well as being a visual artist whose work has appeared on various book covers and in magazines, and even in the occasional exhibition. Previous books and chapbooks have appeared from Enitharmon, Gaberbocchus, Arc, Stride, Reality Street, Burning Deck, Singing Horse, Chax, hawkhaven and Harbor Mountain.