Having finished Ishiguro’s Nocturnes I’m now reading Douglas Porch’s Conquest of the Sahara the story of French efforts to take control of that vast area. At the same time I’ve been enjoying two very different poetry books, Diana Bridge’s Aloe and Alistair Paterson’s Africa. The one thing they have in common, they do not speak in the confessional voice that is so much the norm of recent poetry.
Bridge has studied and taught Chinese language, literature and art as well as early Indian art. Her poems have an Asian enrichment rare in our writing. There’s an acute intensity and meticulous detail as this poem illustrates.
I catch it through branches that stoop
in a ruined umbrella over the sodden earth.
Its own branches reach up like a last supper
of arms, all of them Christ’s. No supplication here.
just chalices of creamy white, occasionally incised
and bruised, like Ding ware, with a fine dark rim.
Paterson is also well-known as an editor and critic. Like the late Louis Johnson he is a fine mentor who has helped many up and coming poets. He has a fine lyric voice. Africa is one long poem reflecting the myths and beliefs of a vanished group of Bushmen who saw the past and present as coexistent but the whole planet is now Paterson’s stage. .
is somewhere in Africa
Bushmen eat the cattle
of the Boers
& the Boers take the children
of the Bushmen
& make servants of them.’
Neither example gets the feel of the totality of both books. I’ve appreciated being in their company and commend both to poetry readers.
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