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At a Fishing Settlement -- Alistair Campbell

Winding up with a New Zealand poet - thanks to Harry Smith for suggesting
today's poem
(Poem #573) At a Fishing Settlement
 October, and a rain-blurred face,
 And all the anguish of that bitter place.
 It was a bare sea-battered town,
 With its one street leading down
 Onto a shingly beach. Sea winds
 Had long picked the dark hills clean
 Of everything but tussock and stones
 And pines that dropped small brittle cones
 Onto a soured soil. And old houses flanking
 The street hung poised like driftwood planking
 Blown together and could not outlast
 The next window-shuddering blast
 From the storm-whitened sea.
 It was bitterly cold; I could see
 Where muffled against gusty spray
 She walked the clinking shingle; a stray
 Dog whimpered and pushed a small
 Wet nose into my hand - that is all.
 Yet I am haunted by that face,
 That dog, and that bare bitter place.
-- Alistair Campbell
As Harry observed when he sent this in, we ran a string of October poems
last year - there's something wonderfully gloomy about this time of year
that seems to inspire poets to greater efforts.

Today's poem blends the grey, rainy, windswept ambience of an October day
with the air of tired despair that clings to a failing settlement, weaving
the separate images together into a satisfyingly coherent whole. The scene
is portrayed with surprising vividness - due, in some part, to the attention
paid to the often neglected senses of taste and touch. The soured[1] soil, the
brittle pinecone, the cold, wet nose of the dog, engage the reader's
imagination at a visceral level, encouraging him to picture not just the
scene as described, but himself in the narrator's place.

[1] yes, this is not technically a directly gustatory image; nonetheless, it
is a metaphor that depends intimately on the reader's sense of taste for
impact. (as, to a lesser extent, does 'that bare, bitter place').

The form too - rhyming but irregular, the lines huddling together in tight
couplets - echoes the tattered, dilapidated, storm-lashed settlement; like
most good poems, it complements and enhances the imagery without obtruding
upon it.

Biography:
[broken link] http://www.vuw.ac.nz/nzbookcouncil/writers/campbella.htm

An article on Campbell:
[broken link] http://www.arts.uwo.ca/~andrewf/clippings/campbell.htm

-martin

29 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Amit Chakrabarti said...

* Martin Julian DeMello () [001012 06:47]:
> As Harry observed when he sent this in, we ran a string of October poems
> last year - there's something wonderfully gloomy about this time of year
> that seems to inspire poets to greater efforts.

October in New Zealand would, of course, be an altogether
different sort of October (hint: hemispheres).

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Perfect I like when people do poems according to what's is happening, I mean the season, thoughts, and current and hard experiences, I'd like to be a great poet.m10m

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