Shevaun Cooley, Homing (Giramondo 2017)
‘Shevaun Cooley,’ says the back cover blurb of Homing, ‘was born and raised in the south-west of Western Australia, but has been drawn ceaselessly to the landscapes of North Wales.’ The two main sections of the book have titles made up of geographic coordinates: 34º24’13.6″S 115º11’43.9″E and 52º45’34.4″N 4º47’11.6″W, with three unlocalised ghazals in between. A quick web search confirms that the two locations are at the south west corner of Western Australia and in North Wales respectively. The poems themselves have a strong sense of place. In particular, there are a number of lovingly observed mountains and mountain-climbing experiences.
My favourite line (from ‘word only becomes at last the word’ in the first section):
The mountain is a cresting wave distracted from its motion.
A number of the poems sent me looking at maps and other reference books. Of these, the one that I found most rewarding was ‘I was no tree walking’, both because it sent me off to discover David Nash’s extraordinary piece of art, Wooden Boulder (do click on the link) and because when I came back to the poem it was much richer than when read in ignorance.
There’s a lot to enjoy here. The ghazals served as an excellent appetiser for the multifaceted discussion of that Persian form in the current Southerly (about which I intend to post soon). Birds and animals flit charmingly through the poems, especially the ones in Welsh settings. Perhaps because, all going well, I’m to become a grandfather at the year’s end, the single that I warmed to most is this:
like an old tree lightened of the snow’s weight
Think of the tree,
who, quiet, might
wait for the starlings
or the last of the red
squirrels, for something
to remind it of how to bear.
Who might not
mind, as much as we
believe, the borers
the lover’s knife, or
the weight of snow
on its leaf-empty branches.
As children we’d
the stairs to a
we thought asleep
and wake him with
a brass bell, while he hid
fully clothed beneath
the quilt, and carried
laughing the weight
of our small bodies
piled over his.
A note up the back informs us that all the poems take their titles from lines by the Welsh poet R S Thomas. This mild piece of intertextuality was a distraction for this reader, but your mileage may vary – the poems generally hold their own in spite of it.
Homing is the sixth book I’ve read for the 2017 Australian Women Writers Challenge. It’s Shevaun Cooley’s first book, and I am grateful to Giramondo for my copy.
What an utterly gorgeous poem. And congratulations on the impending grandfatherness. Great news.
Thanks Kathy. We’re pretty chuffed about the impending granddaughter (and we do know she’s female). I’m glad you enjoy the poem. Typing it out made me appreciate it all the more – ‘to remind it of how to bear’ is a terrific line.