Thursday, October 12, 2017

100 Years of James McAuley

A hundred years ago today, on October 12, 1917, James McAuley was born.

McAuley has been one of my favourite poets since I was first introduced to his work five or six years ago. In his own words, McAuley felt "the persistent desire to write poems that are lucid and mysterious, gracefully simple but full of secrets, faithful to the little one knows and the much one has to feel." His poetry was accessible, but multilayered; lyrical, perhaps with debts to the Metaphysical poets. It took the Australian landscape as a perpetual inspiration and wove legend into it, and sometimes it became sharply satirical.

I still haven't read a great deal of his verse (though I recently managed to track down a rare Collected Poems). Here's one poem:

Anonymous Message

Believe O believe a native
Of the country of despair:
You must never give up hope,
Even just as something to wear.

The dry well choked with corpses
After the razzia, the need for flight,
The underground tricklings of pain,
The black empty wind all night -

They can't hinder, they even help:
Quite suddenly time uncloses
The most ancient, most fragrant, the most
Medicinal of all the roses.

You can read more James McAuley at the Australian Poetry Library, which I highly recommend that you do.

Have you seen any interesting articles on James McAuley for his centenary? If so, drop a link in the comments!

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