'To press thy melting lips, and wreak
Love's raptures on thy blushing cheek,
Thy glowing limbs with mine entwine,
And mix thy very soul with mine!'
Sappho To Herself - Charles Harpur
Poetry, we are often told these days, is obsolete. It does not sell. Our society has become so addicted to electronic means of communication that few of us have, anymore, the attention span required to take in the depths of a true poem. Yet acclaimed Australian poet Jamie Grant believes that there are two situations in life that awaken the dormant yearning for 'memorable speech', as one popular definition of poetry describes it. One is a wedding and the other is a funeral.
100 Australian Poems of Love and Loss, a wonderful new collection edited by Grant, provides the words to mark these occasions in an Australian context. Ranging from the early nineteenth century to the present day, this moving anthology roams the dark, ecstatic, funny, mournful moments we experience during love and loss.
Beautifully illustrated by Australian artist Bridget Farmer, and featuring both high profile and lesser known Australian poets, 100 Australian Poems of Love and Loss provides beautiful, sometimes simple, sometimes complex, but always evocative poetry to express moments so many of us struggle to put into words.
From the rollocking romp of the tongue-tied bullocky in AF York's The Bullocky's Love-Episode, to Judith Wright's intimate tale of an emotional interlude between husband and wife about their unborn child in Woman to Man, the moods and poems celebrated in this book are vast and varied. Even the most serious poems have an uplifting effect; the passage of time and changing social attitudes mean that, for example, that Charles Harpur's love poem Sappho to Herself, intended no doubt as a serious poem on a classical theme, can only be read now for it's unintended comic effect.
Readers of 100 Australian Poems of Love and Loss will undoubtedly make up their own minds as to what constitutes the greatest Australian poems of love and loss, but more than that they will discover that poetry is not, after all, as irrelevant and obsolete as modern society would have us believe.
'Anchored in Time? You have gone from earth,
Gone even from the meaning of a name;
Yet something's there, yet something forms its lips
And hits and cries against the ports of space,
Beating their sides to make its fury heard.'
Five Bells- Kenneth Slessor
Jamie Grantwas born in 1949 in Melbourne and has been a publishing sales manager, bookseller, freelance journalist and editor. He is the author of several collections of poetry, including 100 Australian Poems You Need to Know (published by Hardie Grant Books) Skywriting and Relativity.
100 Australian Poems of Love and Loss
Hardie Grant Publishers
Author: Jamie Grant