Saturday, 12 September 2009

Stephen Edgar’s ‘Dreaming at the Speed of Light’

These beautiful lines from Australian poet Stephen Edgar’s ‘Dreaming at the Speed of Light’ (History of the Day, Blackpepper 2009) see the world from the perspective of a ray of light:
The falling autumn leaves would stall
Above the lawn, their futile red
A stationary fire;
The dog erupting from the pond would spread
In hanging glints its diamanté shawl
Of shaken spray midair;
The blue arc of the wave would climb no higher,
A gauze of glare
And water that would neither break nor sprawl.
It’s lovely, although it patently owes more to slow-motion cinematic photography than to notional saddles upon imagined rays of light. And isn’t there a problem here? Don’t these lines rather imply that time is somehow the contaminant? Take away the t-axis and everything is gorgeous and lovely; as if Edgar has revisited Keats’s Grecian Urn and decided that, you know what?--the the pastoral is perfectly warm and lovely, thank you very much.

Still, it’s exquisite poetry. ‘Stall’ is exactly the right word, both in its sense and its clogging rhyme with ‘fall’ at the beginning, there; and the blue arc of the surfers' wave neither breaking nor sprawling is excellent too (although ‘gauze’ isn’t the right texture to capture what’s being described, surely; and describing the red of the falling-stopping leaf as ‘futile’ seemed to me a bum note). But it all pales into insignificance beside the extraordinary loveliness of that dog, and its diamanté shawl. Bravo!

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