Apparently today is World Poetry Day 2018. I didn’t know that until I read it on someone else’s blog. That being the case, I thought I should hasten my review of Andrew’s McDonald’s latest book of poems, Night Music.
I confess that Andrew is a family friend, with whom we have recently reconnected. I also confess that on matters of poetry I am a novice, but my ignorance was no obstacle to my enjoyment of Andrew’s book. Andrew is a wordsmith of extraordinary ability and insight. He is also pretty witty. Andrew’s poetry spans the globe and the ages (from childhood to death). His family, friends, neighbourhood, and the world around him, are the poems’ main ingredients. Even a road-trip gets the going-over. The humdrum of daily life across the generations is extrapolated for universal meaning. There are also classical references galore, most of which are completely wasted on me, but even so, the poems stand on their own. Nothing escapes Andrew’s minute attention. It used to be that music often moved me to tears. Now, more often, it is poetry. Such was the effect of Night Music.
Those of you who have reached a certain age will appreciate ‘These Bones’ and ‘Walking in My Body’. Here are a couple of extracts.
From These Bones
After three hours’ sleep, the whole corpse
is waiting for these feet to do their duty.
And why sandals? Because these bones,
moist metatarsals, like their curved bed too.
Feet, up and take me down that hall
From Walking In My Body
Someone else is walking in my body,
clumping along, a canted swagger
rolling bow-legged out of shanty,
riot or mishap. He’s fast enough,
but an ill fit to my mind’s frame..
Regular readers will know that I love my wide brown land and road-trips. So it is not surprising that one of my favourite poems, ‘Thalassa: Southern Tablelands’, combines both. I’ve driven the same road in the poem many times and in the same conditions described by Andrew. Here is a taste.
From Thalassa: Southern Tablelands
Half the state is flying east, spattering
everything that’s still left to us with soil
shucked from the food for next year’s bellies.
The speedo sits on a hundred & ten
and the air con is cool, switched on,
reassuring, like the dream of a lush future,
as the car guns to the lip of the bitumen wave
cresting into the next valley.
Flocks of cloud, silly as wheels, head
for greener pastures to scatter rain again
where it’s welcome but not crucial: vertical
water, squinted after, denying, drummed
out of the dance – while what the heart bleeds for
is the horizontal: the clayed arteries
dry as a death rattle, damp sand no more
than gasping mirage, and the flecked blue
hangs, Japanese, and never breaks.
I also loved ‘In the Rainforest’. I really have no words that would do it justice. The poem is dedicated to Diana. I found myself drawn to the love story within – the woman in the poem held in such tender regard, the smallest detail noticed and stored, time together sweet, memories precious, a caress.
From In the Rainforest
Later, photos will show the vegetation as it always is –
clipped, still, dominant – and the one figure with her backpack
walking or standing, facing away or back, or paused
looking over her shoulder. The figure and the ground:
you, me, us here in this or that, this or another place,
leafy and green and trunky and bountiful and there as always;
and us walking through or standing in it, bodies dwarfed,
faces turned, presences here or there against a green ground.
On the human scale, among the litter and the understorey,
you feel the heat and light lifted from you, a burden or a grace,
winched, wrenched or clawed up into the canopy where it lives;
so at dusk, when the light dies and climbs into a peacock-blue heaven,
darkness does not fall, but rises like an exhalation from the ground,
a surrender, a signing off, a change of shift or key.
There is plenty more – 86 poems – in this substantial body of work. If you love poetry, or even if you don’t, you will love Night Music. But don’t take just my word for it; I’m totally biased. Jonathon Shaw from Me Fail? I Fly! also loved it. You can see Jonathon’s review here.
Apparently, there will be another book eventually. I hope you join me in urging Andrew to get cracking.
Night Music by Andrew McDonald, is published by Arcadia, an imprint of Australian Scholarly Press.
Pop on over to Andrew’s website to find out how to buy the book (hard-copy only).