Friday, June 12, 2009

Arthur Baysting


when the ecology thing
finally reached its height
an American millionaire
wishing to put things right
took all the lions from
his luxury estate
and shipped them back
to their proper habitat.
one died on the sea-journey
from an unknown infection
two were killed by other lions
the man-scent still on them
the others, tired from hunger
and chasing fleeter prey,
soon collapsed and died,
were eaten where they lay.
But the last, not yet weakened
by ease and age
found a group of trees
and made them his cage
has learned to hunt again
but returns every day
to lie in the shade
and blink his eyes at the sky
people never come
and he wonders why.

Arthur Baysting


Yes, well I agree
there’s been too much
exploitation of resources
I like music
and that piano
was once
trees and rocks
and elephants.

Arthur Baysting

Baysting flashed across our 1970s literary firmament like a shooting star. A member of the Auckland group that produced the magazine Freed, his anthology The Young New Zealand Poets gave prominence to new players, people who had come to adulthood in the swinging sixties. Very masculine-oriented – one critic said “eighteen men and a poet, Jan Kemp” it was in Auckland academic poet Kendrik Smithyman’s words “timely.” Smithyan wrote an afterword. In it he says “about three or four years ago, another wave of poets – why are poets always waving, as though perpetually saying goodbye – was evidentially at work. “Wave” is a silly word for them, ‘group is over-positive, but [there was] a sense of common happening and fairly common outlook.”

Like many a pioneer Baysting disappeared from the scene while many of those he had introduced flourished. These two poems of his highlight a contemporary dilemma. I’m reasonably environmentally aware, well aware that resources are finite and need husbanding. Sustainability is common sense. But yet on a wet day I’ll confess I used to take the car rather than brave the elements and catch the bus. Poets often poke fun at contemporary shibboleths. Baysting does it so well with his impish common sense I cannot help but admire him.

While I reject the man has dominion thesis I am also aware that nature carries its own rules. Nothing is constant and while we can assist it to repair the damage we have done we cannot restore it completely.

No comments:

Post a Comment