In the high cool country,
Having come down from the clouds,
Down a tilting road
Into a distant valley,
You drive without haste. Your windscreen parts the forest,
Swaying and glancing, and jammed midday brilliance
Crouches in clearings...
Then you come across them,
The sawmill towns, bare hamlets built of boards
With perhaps a store,
And perhaps a bridge beyond,
And a little sidelong creek alive with pebbles
Les Murray "Driving Through Sawmill Towns"My mind was a complete blank this morning thinking of Monday Forum topics. I suppose that we could have another as you will, we do that anyway, but I also like to put up something as a departure point.
This is not necessarily the best of Australian poet Les Murray's poems, although it comes first in a book entitled The best 100 poems of Les Murray (Black Inc 2014). However, it certainly appeals to me because it is a New England poem. I come from that high cool country, the country immortalised by another New England poet, Judith Wright, in South of My Days.. I knew those sawmill towns, although most have now gone.
In Cultural Amnesia, Clive James argues that a knowledge of poetry is central to good writing. He goes further, asserting that the absorption of poetry, its remembrance, provides part of the glue that gives Western intellectual life its continuity over time and between countries. To both James and Murray, they were at Sydney University at the same time, part of poetry's strength lies in the form and sound of words. Poetry is meant to be sounded, both concepts and lines become stuck in memory.
Poetry has been in sad decline. To go into a bookshop as I did Saturday and find a section devoted to poetry is quite unusual. I think that both James and Murray would argue in part that that decline is connected with the way in which poets have lost sight of the importance of sound in their pursuit of new forms. For my part, I would be inclined to argue that all forms of writing are losing their centrality in a world in which the visual has replaced the oral.
I wondered what you thought. Do you still read poetry? Are there particular poets that you really like, particular lines that stand out in your mind?
As always, go in whatever direction you want. I know that you will!