My Home – Clive James – Analysis

My Home

Grasping at straws, I bless another day
Of having felt not much less than alright.
I wrote a paragraph and put some more
Books in a box for books to throw away.
Such were my deeds. Now, short of breath and sore
For all that effort, I prepare for night,
Which occupies the window, as I climb
The stairs. A step up and I stand, each time,

Posed like the statue of a man in pain,
Although I’m really not: just weak and slow.
This is the measure of my dying years:
The sad skirl of a piper in the rain
Who plays “My Home” If I seem close to tears
It’s for my sins not sickness. Soon the snow
Will finish readying the ground for spring.
The cold, if not the warmth that it will bring,

Is made, each day, to clearly manifest
I thank my lucky stars for second sight.
The children of our street head off for school
Most mornings, stronger for their hours of rest.
Plump in their coloured coats they prove a rule
By moving brilliantly through white light:
We fade away, but vivid in our eyes
A world is born again that never dies.

Clive James (1939 –

This poem was the last poem in the anthology “Best Australian Poems – 2014” edited by Geoff Page: appropriately positioned. There are three eight line iambic pentameter stanzas with rhyming scheme ‘abcacbdd’. As usual  CJ is very respectful of form and structure in his work.

CJ is nearing the end of his life and this has been the case for several years now. As indicated in the text he is not in pain but he has breathing problems and consequently his mobility is limited – the first line could easily be ‘G(r)asping at straws, I bless another day’ – and the simple task of walking up the stairs is a great effort as he has to rest after each step – ‘A step up and I stand, each time’.

The ‘sad skirl’ (shrill whirling sound) of the lone piper playing ‘My Home’ – which is a reference to a traditional Scottish or Northumbrian pipe tune. It is used by military bands as a march past, but a slow march contrasting with quick march pasts such as “Highland Laddie” (information from Wikipedia).

For obvious reasons the spring will be cold for CJ as he anticipates the imminent closure of his life. And reflecting on his life there are regrets defined by his ‘sins’ – perhaps chosen for the s alliteration in this line.

The key to his mental outlook is in the line – ‘I thank my lucky stars for second sight.’ For CJ is referring to his new life in his modified state on approaching death. Ironically it is a golden time for him and he is very thankful that he has this second sight or second chance to look at life from quite a different perspective. Another of his poems is illustrative of this fact see ‘The Japanese Maple’ 

And sight and light are seen in the last stanza in double capacity. For CJ light is fading compared to the children who are ‘brilliantly walking in white light’ for they are the on-going metaphor for the eternal life cycle – ‘A world is born again that never dies’ – and this fact (rule) is ‘vivid in our eyes’. A nice way of putting it by using the word ‘rule’ which associates with school and learning.

And ‘My Home’ gives thought to the duality of the physical place that is home and the spiritual connection to the home of eternal life.

 

Would I might find my country – Roland Robinson – Comments

Would I might find my country

Would I might find my country as the blacks
come in and lean their spears up in the scrub,
and crouch and light their flickering fires and spread
their mission blankets on the ground beneath
the dark acacia and bauhinia trees.

Would I might find my people as the blacks
sit with their lubras, children, and tired dogs,
their dilly-bags, their bundles of belongings
tied up in scraps of some old coloured dress,
and pass the long straight smoking pipe around,
and talk in quiet calling voices while
the blood deep crimson flower of sunset burns
to smouldering ash and fume behind the trees,
behind the thin grassed ridges of their land.

Roland Robinson (1912 – 1992)

Lubras – A female Aboriginal Australian (now an offensive term, just as the use of ‘blacks’)
Dilly-bags – is a traditional Australian Aboriginal bag, generally woven from the fibres of plant species of the Pandanus genus.

Roland Robinson was born in Ireland and came to Australia when nine years old. He had many different jobs including a roustabout and boundary rider, railway fettler, cleaner, horse trainer, fencer, and factory worker. He was a conscientious objector in WW2 and was sent to work on the railways in the Northern Territory. It was here that he spent many years working and endorsing the Aborigine life style. And likewise he was highly appreciative of the Australian landscape. He was the first white poet to listen to, and collect, the anecdotes and oral traditions of the Aborigine population.

The poem (a sonnet with a 5/9 split) has nice balance between the start of the evening fire and the closing burn of sunset. It is clearly a statement that the European life style is somewhat wanting compared to that of the Aborigine. Unless one has that heritage it is difficult to comprehend the depth of feeling for the land. Maybe if we had such association we would be far more concerned with environmental issues.

Roland Robinson on Wikipedia

At Shagger’s Funeral – Bruce Dawe – Analysis

At shagger’s funeral

At Shagger’s funeral there wasn’t much to say
That could be said
In front of his old mum – she frightened us, the way
She shook when the Reverend read
About the resurrection and the life, as if
The words meant something to her, shook, recoiled,
And sat there, stony, stiff
As Shagger, while the rest of us, well-oiled,
Tried hard to knuckle down to solemn facts,
Like the polished box in the chapel aisle
And the clasped professional sorrow, but the acts
Were locked inside us like a guilty smile
That caught up with us later, especially when
We went round to pick up his reclaimed Ford,
The old shag-wagon, and beat out the dust
From tetron cushions, poured
Oil in the hungry sump, flicked the forsaken
Kewpie doll on the dash-board,
Kicked the hub-caps tubercular with rust.

The service closed with a prayer, and silence beat
Like a tongue in a closed mouth.
Of all the girls he’d loved or knocked or both,
Only Bev Whiteside showed – out in the street
She gripped her hand-bag, said, ‘This is as far
As I’m going, boys, or any girl will go
From now on.’

Later, standing about
The windy grave, hearing the currawongs shout
In the camphor-laurels, and his old lady cry
As if he’d really been a son and a half,
What could any of us say that wasn’t a lie
Or that didn’t end up in a laugh
At his expense – caught with his britches down
By death, whom he’d imagined out of town?

Bruce Dawe (1930 –

Australian vocabulary
Shagger
One who shags – offensive term for sexual intercourse, a shagger is one known for this as a dominant attribute
Tetron – polyester
Shag-wagon – also referred to in the 1970’s as a sin-bin, typically a panelvan
Currawong – Australian bird
Kewpie – brand of doll

S1 lines 1-8 …
Essential enjambment in lines 7-8 stiff as Shagger
This is all about Shaggers mum and her attendance at the service … on a religious note there was nothing that could be said that was in positive character for the afterlife – so maybe a great disappointment in that regard as his mum visibly shook – showing a little distaste with the behaviour of her son
S1 lines 8-13
His young mates – well-oiled (nice way to say having had a few, considering the shag-wagon  description later – poured oil in the hungry wagon – well they were completely out of place in the church and the service … with no understanding as closed to them as Shagger was in his box
S1 lines 14-20
The mates taking care of the shag-wagon … such an apt description of the panelvan with great representation on the life of Shagger … love the image of ‘hub-caps tubercular with rust’ – the car dying in sympathy with the owner while his mates seem to have some guilt association with that life style, guilt promoted perhaps after being in Church

S2 – the service closure and – ‘silence beat like a tongue in a closed mouth’ – this sums up the whole situation – the locked from speech of all attendees who cannot give expression to their true feelings. But Bev Whitehouse is the only one of his girl friends to turn up and waits outside the church and aptly voices the end to any shagging from Shagger – ‘This is as far / As I’m going, boys, or any girl will go / From now on.’

S3 – Well, it is all about looking at the positives and negating anything that would be completely insensitive at the graveside and perhaps some distortion of the truth might eventuate. Later you can be honest with your mates at the wake and remember with more honesty and with a laugh. Of course Shagger may not have literally been caught with his pants down when he died but appropriate words for his untimely death.

This is such a period piece of poetry defining the Australian scene in the seventies.

More details on this poem

Bruce Dawe is an Australian poet, considered by some as one of the most influential Australian poets of all time.

And Bruce Dawe on Wikipedia 

The Generosity – Luci Shaw – Comments

The Generosity

What well-chosen small presents
arrive almost every day, wrapped
in the newspaper of the ordinary!

No ribbons. No gift cards.
Just the coin of the sun glinting
behind a gray broth of clouds.

A knuckle of dark rock exposed as
a freeze lets go and the snow
settles in its own melting. Trees

showing off their good bones, skeletal,
naked—their fractal structures
echoing the repeating patterns of atoms.

Last week a tender rain came and went,
and our roof gutters gurgled their watery
joy at being useful.

And today, a raven feather on
the sidewalk and wings in the sky,
memos from heaven everywhere.

Luci Shaw (1928 –

From ‘Sea Glass’New and Selected Poems

… stop, say thank you for the beauty in the common place … arrive almost every day, wrapped / in the newspaper of the ordinary! … what a nice way of putting it … I have been known to wrap presents in newspaper … and the arrival of the newspaper is quite an ordininary affair

… and a thank you to the creator … the coin of the sun glinting … perhaps the sun is more than the sun … with Son, religious connotations … a gift of priceless value

… depression dissipates by its own destruction … the snow / settles in its own melting … winter (or depression) … cures itself from the inside … and of course time is needed, well known for anyone suffering from depression

… the basics, the essentials of life shown … echoing the repeating patterns of atoms … nature showing the beauty of its core elements in common structuring

… nature, responding to need … a tender rain came and went ... man made structure respond to the gift of rain in joyous personification … reflecting emotional state of the poet LS

… the light touch of God seen in the drift of … a raven feather … as it … wings in the sky … memos from heaven … spiritual communciation in the simpliest of things … great poetic interpretation

Luci Shaw shows her spiritual appreciation of the beauty around us with the poetic art of expressing this in a very acceptable way … stop, accept, appreciate – perhaps the first step in religious life

Details on Luci Shaw

 

Colour – Dorothea Mackellar – Analysis

Colour

The lovely things that I have watched unthinking,
Unknowing, day by day,
That their soft dyes have steeped my soul in colour
That will not pass away –

Great saffron sunset clouds, and larkspur mountains,
And fenceless miles of plain,
And hillsides golden-green in that unearthly
Clear shining after rain;

And nights of blue and pearl, and long smooth beaches,
Yellow as sunburnt wheat,
Edged with a line of foam that creams and hisses,
Enticing weary feet.

And emeralds, and sunset-hearted opals,
And Asian marble, veined
With scarlet flame, and cool green jade, and moonstones
Misty and azure-stained;

And almond trees in bloom, and oleanders,
Or a wide purple sea,
Of plain-land gorgeous with a lovely poison,
The evil Darling pea.

If I am tired I call on these to help me
To dream -and dawn-lit skies,
Lemon and pink, or faintest, coolest lilac,
Float on my soothed eyes.

There is no night so black but you shine through it,
There is no morn so drear,
O Colour of the World, but I can find you,
Most tender, pure and clear.

Thanks be to God, Who gave this gift of colour,
Which who shall seek shall find;
Thanks be to God, Who gives me strength to hold it,
Though I were stricken blind.

Dorothea Mackellar (1885 – 1968)

The Australian poet Dorothea Mackellar is better known for the poem ‘My Country’ written at the age of 19 when homesick in England. But this poem was her favourite and it was her request that it be read at her memorial service and it was duly read after she died in 1968. Towards the end of her life she suffered ill health for many years and this poem indicates strong nostalgic reflection after becoming blind.

It is a poem of the landscape she loved and even if her sight was lost by age she still could recall the colours from her own life with mind images forever embedded in her soul ( soft dyes have steeped my soul ). She defines these colours in the poetry of this poem by such words as …

great saffron sunset cloudslarkspur mountainslong smooth beaches, yellow as sunburnt wheat sunset-hearted opals / And Asian marble, veined / With scarlet flame, and cool green jade, and moonstones / Misty and azure-stained

Such words may invoke colour images in the reader from their own experience of landscape, more so perhaps for those who live in or have visited Australia. Akin to ‘My Country’ the poem clearly indicates a strong patriotic sentiment. Also a spiritual recognition of God the creator of the beauty she beholds … Thanks be to God … not only for colours but the power of her mind to hold such colours although blind. Colour beauty and landscape are inextricably connected. Close your eyes go to a special place what colours come to mind?

And of course ‘My Country’ has its own colour images in the well know words …
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!

And here are her words which give comparison with her experience of England …
The love of field and coppice
Of green and shaded lanes,
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins.
Strong love of grey-blue distance,
Brown streams and soft, dim skies
I know, but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

Compare ‘ordered woods and gardens’ with ‘fenceless miles of plain’.

I am reminded too of the expat Clive James who is nearly at the end of his life by some of his words as he too defines his own memories of the Australian landscape and one who exhibits similar sentiments …

from his poem ‘Sentenced to Life’ –
Yet I, despite my guilt, despite my grief,
Watch the Pacific sunset, heaven sent,
In glowing colours and in sharp relief,
Painting the white clouds when the day is spent,
As if it were my will, and testament –
As if my first impressions were my last,
And time had only made them more defined,
Now I am weak. The sky is overcast
Here in the English autumn, but my mind
Basks in the light I never left bebhind.

Footnote …
Australia is certainly ‘sunburnt’ one of the most sunburnt countries in the world and the high incidence of skin cancer in the populace is reflected in this fact!

Dorothea Mackellar on Wikipedia

 

Seed – Paula Meehan – Analysis

Seed

The first warm day of spring
and I step out into the garden from the gloom
of a house where hope had died
to tally the storm damage, to seek what may
have survived. And finding some forgotten
lupins I’d sown from seed last autumn
holding in their fingers a raindrop
each like a peace offering, or a promise,
I am suddenly grateful and would
offer a prayer if I believed in God.
But not believing, I bless the power of seed,
its casual, useful persistence,
and bless the power of sun,
its conspiracy with the underground,
and thank my stars the winter’s ended

Paula Meehan (1955 –

To be revitalised from depression … from a house of gloom … from winter … from seeing the garden destroyed after a storm … and then to see something precious, not destroyed and to give thanks … all is not lost … to bless the power of ‘seed’ … the power of life continuing … the conspiracy of the sun with the underground … growth from depression is like that in nature … sun and underground – very appropiate words

Religious connotations, remember the mustard seed … something so small has a big outcome and getting out of depression is big! … thank you …

A seemingly insignificant event or observation takes on mammoth proportions as a catalyst to new life releasing PM from a deep depression. I think this is true for many who suffer from depression. I can relate to this from my own personal experience. Whether providence plays a part is another matter. In this poem PM gives thanks to the persistent power of seed and nature (and her stars – so perhaps she has friends on high).

It reminds me of Sylvia Plath’s poem ‘Black Rook in Rainy Weather’. … where a Black Rook takes on similar proportions

Paula Meehan is a well respected Irish poet and playwright …   Paula Meehan on Wikipedia

Lupin

… a lupin in full bloom.

The Garden of Love – William Blake – Analysis

The Garden of Love

I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen:
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.

And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
And Thou shalt not, writ over the door;
So I turn’d to the Garden of Love,
That so many sweet flowers bore.

And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tomb-stones where flowers should be:
And Priests in black gowns, were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars, my joys & desires.

William Blake (1757 – 1827)

A poem of innocence to experience … youth, represented by playwhere I used to play on the green … to age and church restriction … the freedom of love desecrated as flowers became tombstones.

The gates to the ‘Chapel’ shut … (the term chapel usually refers to a place of prayer and worship that is attached to a larger, often nonreligious institution) … the original ‘Chapel’ was a much different ‘Chapel’ that of the glorious flower of innocent love as a child.

The ABCB rhyme scheme is broken in the last stanza … perhaps in line with the break of innocence. Note also that green in the first stanza has been replaced by black.

The duality of Blake is clearly expressed by his distaste of the restrictions of religion in suffocating the natural expression of human desire.

In Australia in 2017, over 200 years since the birth of Blake, we have approval of same sex marriage (marriage-equality). Enjoy the freedom of love this Valentines Day.

… William Blake on Wikipedia … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

Lovesick – Carol Ann Duffy – Analysis

Lovesick

I found an apple
A red and shining apple
I took its photograph

I hid the apple in the attic
I opened the skylight
and the sun said Ah!

At night I checked that it was safe,
under the giggling stars,
and the sly moon. My cool apple.

Whatever you are calling about,
I am not interested.
Go away. You with the big teeth.

Carol Ann Duffy

Well, I am sure you have been in love and perhaps you can remember that first time. Can you remember that new found feeling – a red shining apple and how it affected your demeanour. Maybe it was something so personal you wanted to keep forever (by taking a ‘photograph’ if you could photograph a feeling). And being a little shy you probably wanted to keep this lovesickness hidden. You had to open up to your surroundings with this joy. The sun of course new and said Ah. And at night time you could bathe in this sickness with delight – such a delight to be in love! – so cool under the giggling stars. A female perspective of the situation is evident. But let’s face it friends and family might just happen to see any change exhibited from your new found happiness state!

But this love sickness, this little euphoria, is very vulnerable. The actual presence and development of a new relationship will destroy or should I say cure any mental heaven – especially if your lover has big teeth.

No other fruit but an apple!

If we consider Estella and Pip from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations then Pip had a very red apple. And even on continual meetings when Estella snubbed his advances he was not perturbed and was quick to convert a greening apple back to red as soon as he was away from her presence. Love can be so mental, so individual.

This is a totally brilliant poem from Dame Carol Ann Duffy who was appointed Britain’s Poet Laureate in May 2009. Here is a Wikipedia link … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carol_Ann_Duffy