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Showing posts from October 28, 2012

Seemly, humane, rational, revelatory, steady, traditional, sane, grounded

Human Chain, by Seamus Heaney.  (Faber ISBN 978-0-571-26922-8, published 2010)   Early in this book Seamus Heaney describes ‘The Conway Stewart’, a newly purchased fountain pen, “The nib uncapped, / treating it to its first deep snorkel / In a newly opened ink-bottle.” Heaney may live in the age of the email and the text message, but his interest in writing implements goes back to the start, when he compared his pen to a spade that digs deep. He is avid for pencils, paper, the traditional means of getting a poem on the record. Importantly, this poem is reprised later in the collection when he uses the voice of Colum Cille, the great saint of Iona: My hand is cramped from penwork. My quill has a tapered point. Its bird-mouth issues a blue-dark Beetle-sparkle of ink. Wisdom keeps welling in streams From my fine-drawn sallow hand: Riverrun on the vellum Of ink from green-skinned holly. My small runny pen keeps going Through books, through thick and

From Toorak through Fitzroy

Here is a poetry of hard lessons, a beating out of tough facts into sayings that are smooth as he can make them. Shelton Lea wants to fix it in the least words. This last collection before Lea’s death this year ( Nebuchadnezzar, Melbourne, Black Pepper, 2005) contains poetry of mature control. Within the personal world of his own experience and its geographic confines (“where distances cannot be described by maps”), Lea does what he does best: talks out his bravado, his passions, his temperaments, his dreams and his griefs. The moods and status of an adopted child troubled Shelton Lea: it wasn’t that i was different to them. they were different to me. that ache, that longing in me was as certain as the sky. (‘to lael’) His poetry dramatises the quandary of identity, sometimes defiantly, sometimes softly. He is someone at odds with those around him, waking each morning to “wonder at the source of self.” Perhaps it explains his praise of other heroic loners like