To be a poet one needs the six P’s – the pencil, the paper, the perception, the passion, the persistence and the unshakable persuasion that the poem is in fact possible and attainable. - Grace Perry

Saturday, June 30, 2012

One Long Summer Afternoon

I have been busy working on my honours thesis the last couple of weeks, so much so that I haven't been able to find any inspiration for writing poetry. So, I have instead been reading. I thought I should share some readings of poetry with you.

David Tacey believes that “…good poetry (contemporary and traditional), is written from a spiritual perspective, and is often a celebration of the spirit of life, society and experience” (2004, p55). For Tacey literary theory has for too long practised secular readings of poetry, neglecting and sometimes refusing to acknowledge the spiritual undertone of much poetry, and it is this spirituality that Tacey believes attracts general readers to poetry (2004). In this sense, Tacey argues that literary critics have been interpreting poetry in a way that opposes a general reader’s interpretation. Tacey views the Australian natural landscape as a key source of spiritual reverence in the twenty-first century stating, “…in Australia, the country of reversals… the celestial realm appears to be ‘below’ us, in the earth itself, in the soil, rocks and plants of this ancient land” (2000, p94). By this premise place-poetry in Australia must be spiritual, displaying a level of intimacy between the poet, speaker, reader and the natural subject of the poetry. One example of such a poem is Australian poet Bruce Beaver’s poem ‘One Long Summer Afternoon’. It is set in Bundanoon, in the Southern Highlands and is aesthetically motivated, describing the visual appeal of lilacs: “…The lilac / lulled me away from dusty heat / to scenes as distant as another / life…” (Beaver 1991, p250). Beaver’s poem is transcendental in that the lilac transports the speaker to another space, where the speaker “…hovered half-in half-out of / myself…” (1991, p250). The representations of nature within Beaver’s poem are used as a metaphor for the speaker’s emotional experience of 'the country'. These emotions are linked to the place, but remain human-centred. The speaker is in awe of the space but is not concerned with the human impact on that space as the speaker drives past cow and sheep farms. Although the speaker does not openly acknowledge, for example, the devastation that hard-hooved cattle may have on the Australian earth does that mean that there cannot be a message of preservation taken from the poem? Jonathan Bate writes that “[i]f mortals dwell in that they save the earth and if poetry is the original admission of dwelling, then poetry is the place where we save the earth” (2000, p283). For Bate place-poetry does benefit the natural place that it engages with, through a connection of the heart with place, and by modelling relationships of praise, spirituality and respect for the natural environment. It is my contention that messages of dwelling are conveyed through recognition of a level of spirituality, or the sacredness of nature, within the poetry. In this sense Beaver's poem, where the speaker is in awe of the lilac flower and surrounding nature of Bundanoon, carries in it an underlying message of preservation. In this time of increasing environmental crisis messages of sustainable living are important for the continuum of species of flora and fauna that may be under threat from climate change and various agricultural, mining and development practices.