Robert Wood, Redgate. Bilingual Edition. Hindi translations by Abhimanyu Kumar. New Delhi: Red River, 2020. ISBN: 9788194509325
Thriveni C Mysore
Robert Wood, the poet of Redgate acknowledges:
In these poems, I have built from that positive sense to describe a Redgate of the mind’s eye, a poetic territory that combines the gnomic with the lyric, with an emphasis on the reconciliation between Eastern and Western Philosophies. Here, I have presented a future hope grounded in what I am surrounded by, weaving together memory, observation, fact, fiction, imagination to paint a picture of a welcome location. (155)
The chosen theme of ‘Redgate’ may be Redgate, a place located on Wardandi country, to the south of Margaret River in the south west of Western Australia, but the picture of a place suffused with poetry would not have been a picture of the place at all. It addresses larger than that involved – life’s philosophy in a good manner.
The poem, ‘We Threshed’ touches on the futility of new-fondness of human world as:
we scythed, revealed to ourselves
the seeds of the already made
abundant with hail and rain.
Creating an impersonal circumstance, to make believe human futility, the poet portrays human activity in the ecosystem, done not for the benefit of the system, but for the human gain. In the two poems, ‘We made’, ‘We became’, the poet says:
We made an effort to flower
labour by labour
through blue shadow,
through faces the wind turned.
There was no envy
in the grain we traded
for uniforms then uniformity
then juniper then the mint we grew
next to grief itself.
We became bottlebrush, red
loomed over turnips
flowered the headboards
amidst the parade of charred remains.
They asked for industriousness, beets.
We gave them honey, not ours,
and in return we witnessed.
Quite apart from the limitations of Redgate, the poem, ‘The Rum Trade’ embraces the plaintiveness of whale-like people. It can also be interpreted in more ways than one. Same plaintiveness can happen with reading, book trade, drinking, rum trade, living, and life — a trade too. The poet says:
Down the coast
the rum trade was idle
and the whales were plaintive
as always as always.
The poet’s view of Redgate by this time of reader’s poetic journey is clear and as the poem, ‘We laid’ declares:
We laid the chillies out
put the haul by handful into bags,
spoke of that time
with turtles and dugongs, sea celery and rafts.
As the day mellowed, the honeyeaters sand out
and we braided a future
from stalks, knowing, once more, that
endless summer brought cold comfort.
The reader by now is aware of the poet’s harshness, his thirst for some justice, his yearning for balance. The poet’s temperament to feel passionately and profoundly is displayed in the poem, ‘We spoiled’. The poem exposes a mean race on the planet – humankind. The poet says:
We spoiled the universal broth by making waves,
floated our boats on tides alone
that rose up so.
They arrived ashore
left a trace of nutmeg
and the dry islands they carried in pockets
with their inventory of salt pork.
They had donkeys.
brought knives for fork tongues,
waited by the warmth
for light to come.
They could not re-invent the wheel
but, for them, we perfected the axle
acting like ducks not rabbits
searching needlestacks for hay.
This melodrama continues in another poem, ‘West of Here’, and the poet says:
And what they meant, which is what we knew they always said
was that here, east of the coast,
and down the road from the limestone,
was that we balanced the world with the soil that makes it so.
The Prayer of St Francis ‘For it is in giving that we receive’ did not mean climate then, but it means now. Speaking of scientific discoveries, Laura Helmuth writes:
The mechanics of climate change aren’t that complex: we burn fossil fuels; a byproduct of that burning is carbon dioxide; it enters the atmosphere and traps heat, warming the surface of the planet. The consequences are already apparent: glaciers are melting faster than ever, flowers are blooming earlier (just ask Henry David Thoreau), and plants and animals are moving to more extreme latitudes and altitudes to keep cool.
Even more disturbing is the fact that carbon dioxide lingers in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. We have just begun to see the effects of human-induced climate change, and the predictions for what’s to come range from dire to catastrophic.
The ecological strain with exclusive emphasis on the never-ending problem of plastics, powerlessness of the natural world against human activities and the absurd wars is left to one’s imagination in the poem, ‘We heard’:
We heard of the planes
doing the work of ravens.
On our shore
plastic washed up
and the whales in the distance swam forlorn.
Poems of such brilliance refresh the reader and when the poet brushes off all the extraordinary feats of human existence with a single stroke, thoughts flare up. The poem, ‘Compass’ reads:
in the six directions.
The poem, ‘Before us, the crays’ expresses the deepest distress of poetic thought still aimed at good-humor:
As the crays marched the way
from the whitewater to the maze
and back again
to the reef and its caves
to the secret traps we lay
we swam and slept and
ate the hearts and lungs of the giants
in the woods where the shells of our belonging were made.
It is significant that the poet of Redgate has influence with unique imagination over the presence of nature, over ecosystem, over culture and tradition. Cultural elements resist easy transition of thoughts and so the boldness of source language steps down during transition.
Conscientious effort is made to look poetic thoughts like vague mystery but the poet succeeds in portraying nicer qualities of habitat with natural tendency, with affinity.
When poets’ visions succeed by virtue of their imaginative quality, poetry gets the scope of spontaneity. Many a time the reader does not realise the true importance of form in poetry and thereby fails to recognise the presence of flying thoughts bursting with inspiration.
Redgate written by Robert Wood with intuitive good taste is a good read, a poetic talent at home in a stylised form.
Laura Helmuth, ‘The Ten Most Disturbing Scientific Discoveries‘, Smithsonianmag.com (13 May 2010).
Thriveni C Mysore is a science teacher from Karnataka, India. She is locally acknowledged for her critical essays and articles on Philosophy and Education. Her books in Kannada on Philosophy and Science have won State awards. Being actively involved in Environmental Awareness Programs, she holds lectures and presentations for students. Amidst life’s complexities, she finds divine-solace in reading Nature poems.