Marcelle Freiman: Spirit Level; Peter Skrzynecki: Travelling Among the Stars

Spirit Level (Waratah NSW: Puncher and Wattmann, 2021, 67pp.)
Travelling Among the Stars (Np: Vagabond, 2022, 208pp.)

It’s a fact well-known that the advances in medical science in the last half-century have enabled those who have access to them to live longer and healthier lives than those of previous generations. This seems all to the good but I wonder whether many have pondered the effect that this has had on creativity, on poetry specifically. Since poets are now likely to survive longer, how does this affect their own sense of the shape of their writing lives? (And for that matter, since critics survive longer too, how does that affect their engagement with “the literature of their times” since the “times” might well be getting towards three-quarters of a century.) I don’t think it’s simply a matter of what has always happened being mathematically extended (or distended). There may well be tangible changes that occur when poets get into their seventies assuming that the inner life continues to grow and change and the creative impetus survives. One of these changes might well relate to memories which, I think it could be argued, alter in quality, significance and insistence as writer approach the deeper recesses of age. Marcelle Freiman’s and Peter Skrzynecki’s recent books come from writers now in their seventies – late seventies in Skrzynecki’s case – and they are both very much books built on memories, exploring the fact that memories are far more complex things than the simple word suggests. When the life of the poet has also been marked early on by the experience of migration with its imposition of a double identity, memories have an extra edge although it could be argued that the memories of everyone who reaches their seventies are memories of a childhood so far in the past that it might just as well be “another country”. A past where, as Brook Emery says in a poem in his selected, “We used to eat Chiko Rolls, Sargents Pies, / Pluto Pups, Polly Waffles, Rainbow Balls . . .” could seem nearly as unfamiliar and exotic to a poet of the third decade of the twenty-first century as a foreign country of origin like South Africa.

Which is a good point at which to look at the poetry of Marcelle Freiman. Spirit Level is her third book – she is hardly a prolific poet – and, like the other two – Monkey’s Wedding and White Lines (Vertical) – is a book dominated by memories of a South African childhood of the apartheid era. To make matters more complex, her grandparents, on both sides, were themselves migrants from Latvia and Lithuania. The striking cover of this new book alludes to this by showing an extraordinary photograph of Freiman’s mother as a child in Lithuania. It’s alluded to in a three-part poem called “The Mother Poems”:

My mother sits in her armchair – by her side
photographs and a document assembled in a frame:
1931 a Lithuanian passport: the handwritten words identify
my grandmother Chana b. 1903 and Mina b.1926.
Alongside, a snapshot in a forest of birches - 
a satchel on her shoulder, the child looks straight at the camera,
her heart-shaped face, a half-smile,
the shine of a clear lake through the trees . . .

Photographs like this, a way of embedding and preserving a fragment of a past, have only been known as a mass phenomenon since the beginning of last century and can act as triggers of memory or, as here, something that extends our responses back beyond the time of our own consciousness as a marker of the memories of those who went before.

Freiman is a more complex poet than simply a purveyor of migration memories and her work is especially concerned with the visual arts, the poems often responding to, or taking as a starting point, paintings, especially contemporary Australian paintings. But the theme of memory is an important one and its importance is established in the first poem of her first book in which a sun-shower in the garden in Sydney generates, willy-nilly, a childhood memory:

. . . . . 
I remember -
another sunshower in November
called a “monkey’s wedding” in Africa -
the picture leaps charged by rain in sunlight
and eyes transformed to childhood
imagine a red sky and monkeys. . .

Here, right at the beginning, we meet the idea of memories not as something indulgently cherished and polished but as something that calls from the past to the present, insisting on being registered. Spirit Level emphasises this by having as an epigraph a quote from David Malouf, himself an expert in the complex phenomenon of memory: “The world not as it was, or as we were, but as we find ourselves again in its presence”, stressing that memory is a way of living in the present rather than moving ourselves into our pasts. And the first poem, “Still”, might even be imagined to be a revisiting of “Monkey’s Wedding” in that it replaces a sunshower with a dry landscape and a fascination with the content of a memory by a fascination with the precise requirements on the mental plane which will allow such memories to emerge:

there is a stillness I require
no rain drumming the surfaces of things.
now, there is no quiescent water
rather a dry crackle of grasses, a sunset in Africa
yellow-brown and moving soft as hair.
only the child’s eye can see
a memory like this. . .

The title, “still”, referring to the mental state, also – probably deliberately – connotes a photograph, imagined as a single frame in the continuous movie of life, and, as I’ve said, it’s one of the ways in which memory is triggered. Almost the whole first section of Spirit Level is devoted to memories of a South African girlhood and they are poems which raise a lot of issues. The first of these is the question of why particular memories should occur. Guilt is obviously a powerful driver as is trauma: in a couple of her poems Freiman describes the memory of a man crying out for help while lying on the road bleeding after a bicycle accident. And in the poems of Spirit Level there are a number of reasons for memory which, like guilt and trauma, might apply to pretty well anyone. There are family memories, for example, which, considered in the cold light of age, are messages about our selves in the present since the outlines of genetic heritage are made clearer. In “The Mother Poems”, for example, the poems move backward so that they conclude with a portrait of the mother’s mother, someone who escaped the anti-semitic pogroms of Europe to settle in South Africa:

. . . . .
Through wordless nights, with steel wires
tying her to family, she made new life in the sun – my mother
a proof of it: snapshot of a young nursery-school teacher
wild-haired and free at eighteen.
Ambiguous, the losses of family not spoken,
the traces would ripple close to the frames
of my mother’s silence, beyond my limited grappling,
my vision too narrow to fathom, even now, years later
in this room.

Here the “losses of family” refers to the fate of the grandmother’s mother and sister, killed in Lithuania at the end of the war. It isn’t a trauma of immediate experience to the author but one whose “traces would ripple” – a reminder that the far past is part of our present, even if we barely know its outlines.

At a social level, a particular kind of memory forces itself into the consciousness of someone growing up in South Africa. In Freiman’s poetry it isn’t so much an issue of having lived under an oppressive, even psychotic, political regime, so much as the lack of childhood awareness of the nature of that regime, of its oppressed majority living in the townships. It’s partly an inevitable guilt reaction about a child’s insensitivity to the lives of the house’s gardener and servant. And guilt and shame are powerful impulses that drive memories into our present. But there is a poetic problem about such memories in that poetry has a strong drive to work its own magic on them, teasing out meanings, emphasising symbolic elements, slyly punning, and so on. In other words, treating these memories as material for poetry when they might be something that is trying to communicate in its own language and doesn’t want to be shepherded or translated into a free-standing poem. To me, one of the least satisfying poems in Spirit Level is “Country of my Birth – written 27 June 2013” a highly structured set of memories of South Africa interweaving the author’s own experiences with the life of Mandela then approaching its close. It’s a portrait of “a country of misery” but the attempt to work the intractable material into some sort of shape is not only a failure but I think a misguided attempt at the poetic level. Something similar could be said about “The Dam”, a much more satisfying poem built around the childhood memory of an afternoon swim at the grandparent’s place in a concrete reservoir under a windmill pumping up water from artesian levels. Unlike “Country of my Birth” there is scope for a powerful sense of the tactility of the experience:

 . . . . . 
holding the ladder, I backed in, heels pressed,
                 toes gripping the sludgy coating.

Above our heads the windpump clanked as the wind changed direction,
        its tailfin a sail, blades turning lazy and squeaking . . .

And it continues – it’s a long poem – with these powerful tactile memories before switching to an interest in why such memories arise. It describes standing in Sydney, “by a stand of ti-tree bushes and eucalyptus” and experiencing a kind of revelation of plenitude, cast very much in terms of the strata that underlie existence. The poem finishes by reverting to the memory of the afternoon swim in childhood where the windmill drew up the water that was underneath the dry South African “straw-coloured grassland”. Again, this is to make sense of the memory as a proleptic experience of a kind of grace underlying the harsh surface: the poem, early on, reminds us that this is also a country where seams of gold lie underneath. The poetic issue, I think, is one of control. To make a good poem a memory is harnessed to an intense experience of the present and the result is a satisfying poem as poem. It’s just the purist in me that worries whether the situation might not be that memories deliver their message in their own language and shouldn’t be translated and structured. It’s a poet’s problem but a significant one and it’s probably the reason why I prefer the poems of memory here, like “Greyhounds – on the plots” where there is no translating or interpreting and little apparent structuring.

Peter Skrzynecki’s Travelling Among the Stars is a book full of memories and their effects. In fact his poetry, since his third book, Immigrant Chronicle, has been located in memories of the past. These have often been deployed for their recording quality – the word “chronicle” in the title is significant here – and for their social relevance as part of the attempt to understand and celebrate the effects and achievements of post-war immigration from Europe. In a sense there is nothing new in Travelling Among the Stars but the importance of the book is that it shows us – or, at least, me – that Skrzynecki’s poetry is not a comfortable repetitive mining of a standard stock of memories but rather a poetic oeuvre built out of obsession: these are memories that don’t go away though they may derive from experiences more than half a century old.

The core memories are located around two scenes. The first is family life in Sydney starting in the fifties and then following through to his parents’ deaths. The second is his time as a recently graduated teacher in a one-teacher rural school in Jeogla on the New England Tableland. I think we first meet Skrzynecki’s father in the second poem of Immigrant Chronicle where he is memorably described as someone who “kept pace only with the Jones’s / of his own mind’s making”. From there he has gone on to make regular appearances (or the poet’s memories of him have) and probably establish himself as the most loved father in Australian literature – at least in my knowledge of Australian literature. A number of the poems of Travelling Among the Stars detail one of the distinctive problems of age. We have in our possession small objects that are “left over” from our parents’ lives: in his case, his father’s shoe-last, watch and alarm clock, in his mother’s, “small plates and cups, statues / she collected”. Their value is only as a tangible adjunct to memory (I have an ugly cigarette box that my father was given when he left his job in England before we emigrated to Australia) and this can only have a painfully short life: “Who will save them / when I am dead – my children / who have lives of their own / or their children . . .”. It’s not a problem faced by those who die young.

Memories of his first stint as a teacher occur in both There, Behind the Lids and Headwaters – earlier books than Immigrant Chronicle – and in those poems you can feel Skrzynecki struggling with modes of writing about them. Fifty years after the publication of his first book, these memories seem to have settled into a mixture of surprise and rhapsodic celebration, an almost Wordsworthian celebration not only of the natural world and its inhabitants – Skrzynecki writes very well of the local people of the area – but also of the accession of the desire and ability to write. There’s a certain paradox in the fact that what seemed at the time an exile from the comfort and love of the family home into a difficult post in an unheard-of town hours to the north should result simultaneously in illumination and a realisation of one’s talent. But perhaps it isn’t such a paradox.

My sense of the function of memory in Skrzynecki’s work over the more than half-century of his writing is that there are tensions there which are made clear in this recent book. There is no doubt that there is a process of memorialisation going on, if we define memorialisation as a gift given by the present to the past. Those in the present pay homage to those who have passed by keeping their spirits alive, to an extent at least, in memory. Any chronicling does this even if its basic aim is to understand some phenomenon of the past like post-war migration. But there is a push in the opposite direction that I think grows as we age: the past forces itself on us in memories and demands that it be heard. Feliks Skrzynecki is a slightly more active figure, for example, in the poems of this book than he was in the poems of the earlier ones. The first poem, “My Dear Father”, is a letter to the dead man, written in order to “reconnect” and is thus more of a resuscitation than a simple description would be. Most tellingly in “A Visit from My Father” we have a dream – not announced as such until later in the poem – in which the father

  arrived unexpectedly
carrying a travel bag and asked
if he could visit.
“I won’t be staying long,” he added,
almost apologetically . . .

It’s ultimately a poem about dying and the father, still carrying his bag, leaves through customs at the airport where the son can’t follow him. His final message is that “once you pass through the gates / there is nothing to be afraid of”. But though it is advice about the future, to me it reads as a case of a memory – in the form of the father – imposing itself on the present, refusing to be something passive that can be conjured up in the present when the poet feels like memorialising the past. It’s no accident that when one of the Jeogla poems, “Wollomombi Falls (2)”, speaks of the memories of the place, it does it in terms of a similar visit:

. . . . .
Fifty years and it still surprises
by coming to mind
like a relative
who arrives without notice -
a reminder of youth and identity
in a home where I boarded
and knew that I belonged.

This idea of memories as the past insisting on paying visits to the present rather than passively recreated as memorials is put well by Pasternak in his autobiography (although there is an important distinction to be made between visits and gifts). Speaking of his memories of meeting Rilke, he says, ”I am not presenting my recollections to the memory of Rilke. On the contrary, I myself received them as a gift from him”.

Anthony Lawrence: Headwaters

Sydney: Pitt Street Poetry, 2016, 77pp.

“Murmuration”, the second poem of Anthony Lawrence’s new book, is a meditation on the way flights of birds form and unform shapes with what seems like practised ease. The collective noun for a flock of starlings, a “murmuration”, derives from the sound the flocks make. The word itself is Latin and much of the poem is devoted to examining the similarity of the birds in both Australian and Italian (Roman) contexts: the sound they make, the poem says, is the same as the sound of rain “falling over the Pantheon / or through miles of telegraph poles / on the Monaro Plain”. The poem moves towards conclusion as the birds settle down to roost in both locations: the separate worlds of “columns and skylines” and “remnant stands of box iron-bark”:

and where the sky pours down
               like madder lake
                              into the roosting dark
sturnis vulgaris preens feathers
scaled with metal highlights
buffed into song
               and who could not be moved
                              aside from themselves for this.

There is a lot about language here, about English’s dual heritage of Latin and Germanic (it’s no coincidence that the first word used for the birds is “starlings” and the second is “sturnis vulgaris”) but the poem is as equally interested in the sound of the words as it is in their history. It is even possible that the last two lines – bringing the poem home to the effect of its scene on a viewer – might invoke the Greek word “ekstasis” (our “ecstasy”) whose original meaning “out of place” describes the way we can be moved out of ourselves by something (it is the origin of our phrase “beside myself” used to describe the effects of anger).

So, I think, one of the many things that “Murmuration” wants to say is that words have both a history and a presence. It may even be that Lawrence wants to say that uncovering the etymology of words is a scientific activity whereas responding to the presence, their sound and appearance, is a poetic activity. Certainly the whole of twentieth century linguistics is built on the notion that the word’s relationship to what it refers to is arbitrary but, perhaps, the poetic imagination with its tendency towards porous boundaries (as in synaesthesia) is capable of fighting against such rigid separations.

But “Murmuration” is also about the shapes that the birds make and thus introduces an issue that emerges in other poems in the book. “Bogong Moths”, for example, includes a delphic proposition in the middle of a memorable description of other shapes produced by animals:

. . . . .
          as children on farms, we had learned
                      from migrations
and infestations, that form is a mirror for disorder
that the brown shag pile carpet
a drought had unrolled from silo to kitchen
                               had been made of mice
so numerous and fast they moved as one, a ground-
swell of need, that locusts in swarm make patterns
in the air if you lie under them
                               and let your eyes
lose focus to see congested flight break away
from the linear lines hunger draws tight
across the land . . .

I’ve been puzzling over the implications of “form is a mirror for disorder” since my first reading of this book. Perhaps it means that all apparent disorder can be shown to have shape if viewed from a different perspective. In this case location is important and Lawrence is very clear in “Murmuration” that the starlings are seen from below, here by an observer who (in another challenging proposition) is in a position that

could imply supplication
or simply the attitude of someone
at ease with how grace can be
         divisive or calming . . .

The animals themselves (the starlings, mice and locusts) are driven by straightforward needs but, like the formula whereby endless iteration produces an infinitely complex (and in the case of fractals, an incredibly beautiful) result, the patterns they make, when seen from a perspective far enough away to be able to embrace the whole, are examples of intricate unstable forms. And if form can be a mirror of disorder then, as another poem, “Connective Tissue”, says, “disorder // can be the tradesman’s entrance / to mindfulness”.

I emphasise this issue of form, chaos and perspective because it’s part of Lawrence’s complex poetics that I have never really thought about before. I’d always blandly assumed that the startling precision of his images derives from an intense focus on the thing described so that, in the wonderful first poem of his previous book, the oysters on the rocks of the harbour are described as being like “ceramic fuse plates // sparking and shorting-out in the wash” or, in “Paper Wasps” from this new book, the nest is described as being “like a graphite sketch of a shower rose”. Both of these are close to a Hopkins-like precision and, when meshed in a poetry marked by a strong onward syntactic push they have something like the same effect that they have in the poetry of Bruce Beaver (a poet who is both like and very unlike Lawrence) where they have a throwaway quality so that the verse seems to say, “I’ve more important things to do than wallow in precise ”˜capturing’ of parts of the natural world”.

So the poems of Headwaters make one want to look at formal aspects in Lawrence’s poetry, not in the predictable sense of metre, quantity and rhyme scheme but in the sense of the shape of a poem. Starlings may form beautiful and apparently spontaneous shapes but so do poems. The book’s third poem, “Ode to a Whistling Kite”, is worth looking at in detail from this point of view:

I heard you before you appeared. You were hunting
the margins of all things estuarine, tracking the wind-
abbreviated signature of your song.
Descriptions of flight and sound should begin

with how these tidal encampments are home
to three other raptors, and naming them summons
the vowel-driven variousness of your calls:
Osprey, Brahminy Kite, white-bellied sea eagle.

Now I’ll attest to having seen you circle and stall
over the shallows, where mullet were so many
when they turned, the water was lit as though
by bars of polished chrome, and you dropped

to settle in a mangrove, still as the bird below you
in rippling imitation. Often, spur-wing plovers
will fly out to intercept you, the word trespass
broken down into volleys of avian abuse.

Sometimes, if the sky has been reduced to rain
the colour of marsh grass, you will be elsewhere
on the nest you have been shaping and repairing
each year like a busted wicker basket

on a grand scale, or inland, attending a fire
to overrun whatever escapes the flames.
You work the flats for live fish, and turn to carrion
out of season. I turn to you when I need reminding

that wonder and amazement are only a glance away
and that gulls might seem common – that rowdy
beach crowd in white rags craning necks for food - 
yet their beaks and legs are beautiful.

One needs to be reminded of this in full to get some sense of its strange and exciting shape. To begin with, one might see how it seems marked by continuous indirection. Far from focussing obsessively on the thing itself – the highly concentrated, ”mindful” gaze that, allied to a poet’s hyper-expressive language, is supposed to fix the object under view – the poem moves to other matters at every opportunity. It is obviously ecologically correct to say, as the poem does, that you can’t describe an animal properly without describing the animal’s environment as well, but here the poem seems to want to bring in the kite’s fellow raptors just as it wants to bring in the plovers which try to drive it off. It seems entirely deliberate that the poem should conclude not with the bird which is its subject but, first, with an account of how the bird’s effect on the narrator is to remind him that “wonder and amazement are only a glance away” and, second, with seagulls, whose legs and beaks are also beautiful.

This poem so deliberately flaunts the conventions of description, turning away from its subject whenever it can and even refusing that subject a final appearance by letting in a scruffy competitor for attention, that it leads you to wonder what the idea behind it is. It certainly makes for a fascinating shape because the strong onward, enjambed drive of the verse, characteristic of Lawrence, is always deflected from its target. Conceivably the twists and turning asides of the poem reflect, in a mimetic way, the twists and turns of the bird in flight. Also the poem might, like the bird, be hunting on “the margins of all things estuarine”. It could be saying (as it does in passing in the beginning) that you define an animal not by a careful, bird-watcher’s checklist of size, colour, call, habits etc but by locating it in its environment and observing the parts of the natural world which impinge on it, but I think the idea is a little wider than this and is rather about observation, imagination and language in poetry in general. The idea, after all, almost reflects the methods of the French Symbolists whereby the inexpressible is “expressed” by the symbols that surround it; it is also the governing idea behind “negative theology”.
“Ode to a Whistling Kite” makes me think back to the last two poems of the animal section of Lawrence’s previous book, Signal Flare, “Cattle Egret” and “Sightings”, especially the former in which the egrets, “attending stock” become “central // and peripheral” much as the kite does in his own poem. “Cattle Egret” deliberately contrasts the practice of consulting “a text / on wetlands birds // or a guide / to animal husbandry” in favour of “observing // in diffuse, patient ways”. In both cases the result of such observation is an effect on the poet himself, either a reminder that “wonder and amazement are only a glance away” or the experience of having been where “things are companionable / and alive // with possibilities”. And, as in “Ode to a Whistling Kite”, there is a strong emphasis on sound, not in the sense of the bird’s call but in the sense of the consonants and vowels of the animal’s names.
The form of “Ode to a Whistling Kite” is related to that of another Headwaters poem, “Giant Dragonfly”. Here the drive towards finding one of these insects in the hinterland mountains is what gives the poem its relentless forward dimension, but even at the beginning the search is thrown aside by the appearance of other items in the landscape:

In the Nightcap Ranges, in needle-point installations
of light on the rainforest floor, a windfall
of quandong berries
                                 give blue shade a darker hue
and upside down on a palm fringe lit with red beads
a wompoo pigeon is dispersing seeds with a call 
like a mistake: whoops, whoops . . .

All the sounds heard are not the expected one of the dragonfly in flight (“something akin to a low, insistent drone / as when a model aeroplane comes in”) but that of Friar birds, and the quest gets temporarily transferred to the various mimicries of the lyre-bird. Eventually the poem moves away from searching for an insect to the poet himself searching for some kind of identity or peace. Interestingly this too has a language dimension when the word “endanger” is taken apart to make an imperative “end anger”: not something that can be done logically since there is no etymological connection between “danger” and “anger”, but something that works on a non-logical plane. The poem finishes with its searcher “either asleep, or mapping / the area for giant dragonflies” thus, formally, bringing it back to its opening subject while at the same time announcing that that subject has not been found. It also, conceivably, ties the end with the poem’s first line in that the sleep is occurring in the memorably named “Nightcap Ranges”.

Something of this kind of “form through negatives” occurs in a long and difficult poem, “Connective Tissue”, whose title suggests, as does that of a later poem, “Bloodlines”, that the interest is in connections rather than disjunctions. “Connective Tissue” is punctuated by concretised metaphors based on experiences which the poet claims not to have had: the opening lines are a good example:

I have not paused at the summit
of a building or leaned
from the rail of a bridge, waiting

for the wind to turn, and to then
base-jump into the whistling night
my chute thrown clear to open

like an ink bloom in the wake
of the lit canopy of a cuttlefish
but I have stood beside you

as good news came through
the radio-active test site
your body had been . . .

Although the poem is really about connections between the speaker and his past, between the speaker and his partner, one of the things that I think this opening (indeed the whole structure of the poem) wants to say is that an experience can be inhabited imaginatively even though its only function is as a metaphor. The vision is just as intense as in the contemplation of the “real situation” of a medical outcome: witness the memorable comparison of a parachute to the ink bloom behind the canopy of a cuttlefish. In “Giant Dragonfly” the plants and birds which the poem focusses on in the absence of the central insect are realised just as intensely.

These matters of poem-shape, vision, metaphor and language are very complicated and I have the feeling that I should reread all of Lawrence’s previous work to feel comfortable with any of the generalisations. But then, really major poets need to be reread constantly. Certainly many of the other poems of Headwaters can be tied to these issues. “In Extremis” is an unusual poem in that it is ostensibly about an historical figure, Douglas Mawson, but its real interest is in the way Mawson, in a near-fatal situation, finds that his mind creates apparitions or, to put it more relevantly, breaks down the barriers between reality and imagined reality:

. . . . . 
In the late night flare and burn of the Aurora Australis
he finds the arc of a distress signal. In displacements of ice
breaking bone and rifle shots . . .

And, in extremis, he thinks about the origins of his name (we aren’t told whether he thinks of himself as “the son of the gut” or “the son of the sea-mew”), another example of the issue of language hovering alongside perception and imagination. (I’m not sure how relevant it is but it’s difficult not to read this poem alongside Michael Dransfield’s “Bum’s Rush” where the cave in the ice also encourages hallucinations but where the extreme situation is a result of drugs.)

And then there are others. “Loss” is a little poem about forgetfulness and the guilt of forgetting where one’s father’s ashes are – not so much a poem with a perspective from the negative as a poem about something that breaks the connecting tissues. And in “Lies” the lies are imagined to take on a physical form which makes a metaphor concrete – “Saying I had to attend a meeting / when a friend was breaking down / turned my voice into a baling hook / in the wall of a disused wool store . . .” “Paper Wasps”, apparently simply about being stung by wasps might really be about how the fiercely accurate visual sense (the nest, as I’ve quoted before, looks like a drawing of a shower rose) is replaced for a moment in the face of intense pain before reasserting itself in a final image of the wasps’ nest as being like a snow dome with the wasps as snowflakes trailing “live wires”.

It’s a complex and magnificent poetry able to activate our own imaginations in response. The poems’ shapes, which I’ve concentrated on here, are always interesting and challenging, and as a result Lawrence’s poems are never a wodge of imaginative discourse dumped onto the page. At the same time, the strong drive of the verse always means that the aesthetic beauties are never merely effete or self-congratulatory. For those new to this poetry, Headwaters makes an excellent introduction to Lawrence and there is the additional benefit that it comes in such an attractive package. I know I have said this before but it is worth repeating that the poetry series from Pitt Street Poets sets very high standards in book design: these things have certainly improved since I was the publisher of a small press a quarter of a century ago.