A wonderfully written memoir by an acclaimed poet.
What happens when the imagination wakes up and you try to follow your instinct, with nothing to go on but a few hints from your heroes in poetry and jazz? And suppose there's no indication that you will ever have any instinct to follow until you see a blonde head gazing at a city map and feel the horizon contract to a small vertical, perhaps five-foot-two? And no idea what to make of it when you follow her down to a fishing village in the Pyrenees and she isn't there?
In a memoir as vivid and unpredictable as any novel, Roger Garfitt takes us into his confidence as he tries on different selves, from stable boy to jazz dancer, from Oxford dandy to Sixties drop-out. We see him on horseback with the Riding Master to the Kings of Portugal and in a beatnik pad with Redmond O'Hanlon. We watch as he is introduced to David Bowie and realises that the wrong one has come as the rock star. We follow him back to the Norfolk village where as a small child he had glimpsed the world through his grandfather's eyes - if glimpse is the word for an unhurried vision in which the simplest objects, flawed as they might be, seemed to possess their own dignity. And we are inside his head as he gradually cuts loose from the real world, eventually being committed to a locked ward in a mental hospital.
Written with a poet's gift for language, The Horseman's Word is an account of what it is like to feel the world too acutely, to love too obsessively, to go right to the very edge and, miraculously, survive.
“Roger Garfitt's compelling journey takes in an intensely remembered childhood, the feverish disconnects and forced logic of a 'fine madness' during young manhood, and an eventual domestic calm that has, nonetheless, its own sense of risk. The writing is hauntingly evocative. No one, having picked up this book, could willingly put it down.”
“This astonishing memoir is to run-of-the-mill autobiography what poetry is to prose, dancing to walking. Elizabeth Bishop called it writing in 'experience time' - this artist's ability to select from an objective chronology of months and years exactly those blocks of memory he needed to construct an absorbing, un-put-downable collage of himself. As a portrait of a poet growing up as war-worn England became swinging England in the 1950s and 60s, I can't believe it could be bettered.”