Having readers out there, willing to take the time to inhabit and reflect on your words in the form of a review, is a truly magnificent thing… one such reader, who has so generously done that for The First 30 and other poems is Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke. Tonight, I am deeply moved to share his words with you…
Some poets – Alain Bosquet’s God’s Torment and Philip Sipp’s Aureole come to mind – write poetry of question, and quest. In The First 30 and other poems we have something qualitatively different. Graham Nunn’s poetry is a vast sky, pellucid, yet cloudy with the whiteness of the most intimate, contented experience. Nunn is offering us the superbly crafted, and quietly visionary, gentle poetry of a found man.
Turn a precious stone in your hand in sunlight. See its facets glitter, remind you why the stone is a precious gift of the earth. As I enjoy the subtly highlighted variegated facets of this collection, it is hard not to be moved to quiet contemplation of a sacred yin of all that is not human, and the precious, infinitely promising yang of a new baby boy’s life.
The First 30 and other poems left me knowing Nunn’s technical expertise and accomplishment as a poet, and, much more than that, moved to reflect on the poignant beauty of the world we are so privileged to share with each other.
I now wish to share with you three excerpts from the book that speak to me of precious facets, and themes, touched on to a greater or lesser degree in the book, that speak of the variety, within such a visionary whole, that this collection has:
From this angle, the girl
could be anyone.
The triangle of sky between
her legs as she straddles
the park bench, a shining
slice of the city
“One Way Of Looking At A Girl”
last night I dreamed my son:
stood before our crumbling house, so blankly
beautiful, holding a net of dead goldfish
and a glass of iced watermelon juice
knew only moments of wonder, how night
finds its children in us and how turtles nest
only in the green band of a rainbow
believed he was born to tie scarves to ocean
waves, had such a delicate ear he could
hear the sound of this poem being born
he wakes, moon-
and my heart
is a hymn
book thrown open
These three excerpts (and the last two are whole poems) illustrate the vision Nunn shares with us. It is as much the poetry of traditional religion as, say, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s is – Shelley is a point of reference in terms of the vast, spiritual scope, quieter here in Nunn’s collection than Shelley’s more declamatory way, yet both poets celebrate the world and all that’s in it. Nunn offers us not so much hymns from a church pew as pantheistic zephyrs that lull and croon smoothly, yet deeply educatively.
I’ve drawn on several different spiritualities to talk about this book, because it allows that. We are not questing, we are seeing, and as we see through Nunn’s eyes, we are given faint intimations of true cosmic consciousness, necessarily faint – the being of the cosmos would overwhelm us were it to be revealed in all its glory – but, as Nunn looks into his baby son’s eyes, we are on that beach with William Blake, staring at that leaf that the young Wordsworth saw.
Yet this book is not a mystical phantasm. Its “mysticism” is the pure sacredness of life. And that is beyond words, yet, as poets do, and Nunn does, we paraphrase it into the quiet (that word again) joy of comprehension.
The First 30 and other poems is an intimation that asks us to gaze at the shifting cloud; asks us to see a baby pushed in a pram on a pavement as one with you. If there is a single insight that I am grateful for this book giving me, it’s that there is no conflict between the separateness from you, and the wholeness to you, of another loved one’s being and your own self. The poet and his child become one, in a spiritual communion, in pure love.
I recommend this book unreservedly.
The First 30 and other poems is now available at the Another Lost Shark Online Store.
Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke had his first poem published in 1966 when he was seven years old in the mass circulation Australian newspaper The Sun. Michael’s first poetry hero was John Keats, after he read as a teenager a biography of the English Romantic poet.
At Monash University, from 1977 to 1980, while studying successfully for a Bachelor of Economics degree, he hung out in a part of the library where hardly anyone went, devouring poetry books, and Michael Dransfield became his favourite poet.
To this day, notwithstanding he now has many other favourites, Dransfield’s “to be a poet in Australia is the ultimate commitment” remains seminal. Since university, Michael has made a point of reading poetry, often in translation, from as many poets the world over as he can.
Michael now lives in Townsville, enjoying the north Queensland tropical sunshine. He is a valued member of Writers In Townsville Society, whose website is:
Michael’s latest collection is The Paradoxophies, written and published in collaboration with Martha Landman. Copies of the book are available here.