Summer Sketches: Sydney – Vivian Smith – Analysis

CoralTreeThe striking colour of the Coral Tree

Summer Sketches: Sydney

City of yachts and underwater green
with blue hydrangeas fading in between
the walls of sloping gardens full of sails,
and sudden as a heart the sunlight fails
and over all the city falls again
a change of light, the neon’s coloured rain.
Tourists in their lives of sudden ease
stare through dark glasses at the coral-trees
and know at once that only colour’s true:
the red in green, within the green the blue.
At night the cool precision of the stars,
the neon-glitter and the sexy cars,
the easy pick-up in the close green bars.
A holiday like some smooth magazine;
how photos can improve the simplest scene.
They isolate the image that endures;
beyond the margins is the life that cures.
But when the surface gloss is thought away
Some images survive through common day
and linger with a touch of tenderness:
the way you brushed your hair, your summer dress.

Vivian Smith (1933 –

Some analysis …

The poem is created as four distinct stanzas … each a sketch or postcard on scenes in Sydney. The discrete components labelled with roman numerals … also the number of lines vary across stanzas adding to separate identity. Each stanza has some sort of personal reference … heart-stop / tourists / pick-up /  a special person

This poem means much more if you know Sydney and the coral-tree (a good choice corresponding to bright tourist imagery), but why the green bars … was that the going décor of the time?

I like the image of the neon’s coloured rain … the falling light activating spotted city lights … and sunset like a heart-stop … so quick compared to the northern hemisphere (unless you live in Tasmania of course)

A honing in of intimacy in stanza iii … strengthened by the close rhyming (stars, cars, bars)
Why do you think stanza iv is long compared to iii? What is important in real life?

Do you think holidays are life-margins? … unreal life perhaps, a pit-stop on the journey … of importance when you meet someone special of course! … but would you remember a summer dress? … more the person first and then the little things that identify … I like the fact that there are no personal detail like colour of hair or eyes – the reader is left to fill in the details from his or her life thus molding the poem into the experience of the reader in a form of joint creation

Vivian Smith is an Australian poet born in 1933. He is considered one of the most lyrical and observant Australian poets of his generation. Here is the Wikipedia link

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