PARTING THE WAYS


Earthmovers roared, made a whirling progress

six days a week: a four-lane highway

to bypass our provincial town. Gone were

Traveller’s Joy, Heartsease, Love-in-Idleness.

Our wood and its narrow roadway – a lovers’

thoroughfare – severed. Only clay was left

from world’s edge to world’s end: a no-man’s-land,

a dried-up riverbed. One Sunday,

our daughter crossed the silent excavation

and, from the opposite bank, called out:

‘It’s just like the Red Sea!’ And she waved.

We acknowledged the future lovingly.

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  1. #1 by John Williams - April 21st, 2010 at 22:34

    Your poems are very accomplished. I thoroughly enjoyed them and went back months to see the topics, tones and themes you explore. They’re presented brilliantly, too, clearly the result of years of discipline in the craft. What a wide range of ideas and impressions!

    I’ve read many of them several times, building up an overall feel for the work and your techniques for deepening the reader’s understanding. Many of the poems contain contrasts, for instance, past and present in ‘The Embrace of Nothing’ and ‘Historical Necessity’ , the brass and roses in ‘Aliases’ , the land and sea in the Prepositions 11, and also juxtapositions of size, such as we find in ‘A Life’; techniques help to vary the focus. Also, your sentence length ‘Always/fresh roses surrounded it/.’ contrasted with ‘The monumental bronze…is intact.’ for example, are most refreshing as our country slides into the realm of slebs, shopping and sound bites.

    Sometimes you take a sudden turn, as in ‘Oh Yes There Is’: for example ‘But I can see you as clearly as if we had – in what you say, leave unsaid, and do not know about yourself: lovely, witty, determined, courageous, heart breaking. ‘, when the treatment and rhythm mirror the movement of conversation.

    I can often identify a varied 4/5 beat line as the poems (tightly controlled in ‘Fido’, for instance, to name one) move away from conversational speech to more formal patterning.

    Similar to sudden changes of direction is the stacking of impressions, as in ‘And With A Little Pin’, where towards the end varied focus moves us through the scene: ‘hill, ‘army’, ‘fern’, ‘stones’, and the impressions of a fourteen-year-old in ‘Accidents’, with the sobranie-smoking aunts.

    Your range is very rich. Many of the poems work through impressions & memories as well as arguments and conversations. You create moods with facility and the poems are accessible.

    I’m trying to ascertain how different your work is from poets like Paul Farley, John Burnside and Don Paterson who tend to use varied rhythms and juxtaposed impressions to build persuasive moods. Also, do you know the work of Neil Rollinson? His poems, much more structured in predictable rhythms, give us stretches of focused angst. One of my favourite poets at the moment is Robert Crawford, the Scottish writer who’s just published a lovely book on Burns. Are you familiar with Crawford’s poetry? Which poets can you recommend at the moment?

  2. #2 by David - April 23rd, 2010 at 17:20

    Thank you, John, for the comments – very much appreciated. I’m very pleased you like so many different pieces.

    The poets you mention are all new to me. I shall read their work and get back to you.

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