Bruce Beaver, Lauds and Plaints

Bruce Beaver, Lauds and Plaints (South Head Press 1974)

I was going to start this off by reminiscing about two occasions on which I’d met Bruce Beaver. But some dim recollection made me go trawling back through this blog and its predecessor and confirm that I would have been fogeyishly repeating myself. If you want the reminiscence, it’s here.

I must have bought this book in 1974, the year it was published, but have no memory of it. Maybe I tried to read it fast and so didn’t really read it at all. Whatever, I enjoyed it hugely this time around: there’s a lovely ode on Arthur Stace, Sydney’s ‘Eternity’ graffitist:

oooooeternity

I knew it was here already surrounding
ooooousooooadding to subtracting from
oooooour moments

crossing and dotting our Is and lives
oooowith its big beautiful script looping
oooovolute

that was before I learned of the commonest
ooooagony of allooootime’s rape of
oooothe timeless

as I watched the generations of dogs
ooooexcreting religiously over it
oooothe myriad

leather soles taking a little of it
oooowith them into homes shops
oooooffices

and the closest thing to sanctuaries
ooooof grass stone leaf sand
oooowave-lapped

rockooooout of the streets and into
ooootheir lives blindly underfoot
ooooalways

A series of poems marks a week’s separation from his beloved, of which you can read one at the Poetry International site. There’s an elegy to a 98 year old Manly character, two powerful pieces about a door in his family home, and all through the book an engrossing play of mind – reflective, chatty, impassioned, anguished, erudite.

Excuse me if I now say something that has been glaringly obvious to everyone else, but reading these poems I finally twigged that when a poem lacks all punctuation apart from line breaks and occasional larger spaces between words, it’s not necessarily trying to be obscure, ambiguous or even generally annoying. It may be trying to slow the reader right down. At least that’s the effect in these poems. They can’t be read fast. Nor is it generally possible to coast along on their sonorousness – too many latinate words and unsonorous sibilants. Reading them is a constant process of deciphering, of immersion, allowing the meaning to make itself known, and as such is tremendously pleasurable.

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