Angela Gardner, Some Sketchy Notes On Matter. Canberra: Recent Work Press, 2020. ISBN: 9780648404248.
Thriveni C Mysore
Poetry, a work of art, introduces the reader to an individual world – the poet’s world. Reading them gives a satisfying experience because it is the world the reader shares with the poet. If such unification happens, then there lies the success of writing. Poetry like art represents the present. Though nature is as liquid as slow-flowing glass, the ecological perspectives have changed in quick succession. The readership is equally interested in the ‘thens’ and the ‘nows’.
In an ‘Afterword’, the poet says:
Just as architecture can influence lives, poetry can change how we see the world and our place in it, encouraging us to be open and fearless and take responsibility for our actions. (73)
This serious note is heard in the poem, ‘Glass’. The poet says:
Until the house is a sky made of uprights of forest
and everywhere the leaves are set against more leaves
in the trees and in the hanging of the clouds.
The way in which a human world exploits nature is an unbearable truth of which a reader is made aware. And as the poet enters ‘the sky as birds will do’, the reader also plays along.
In the poem, ‘Unkempt if you will’, the poet describes the summer. The poet’s response to the onset of summer which the reader very much likes is the same kind of summer one wishes to participate in. Hence the poetic imagination strikes high with resonance as the poem reads:
mazy with grass seed and insects.
By which you read Summer.
A season warm and static. Nothing
surely can happen beyond the buzz
of the bees in the salvia. Stay here, lie
on the lawn the whole day
until at last we must seek shelter.
Enormity of human destruction is dramatic in gentle thoughts as expressed in the poem, ‘Waiting for the rain’. Widespread, bellbirds have survived well even in the presence of introduced predators. They are territorial and defend colony areas communally and aggressively excluding most other passerine species. This can also be said of human presence in nature. Therefore, the human-made garden between forest and more forest is annoying to one’s conscience. The poet says:
Restless. The wind a pressure, an equalization come to heat
and violence. And the garden, just a hill-top field between
forest and more forest.
Turbulent paradise, thirsting. Only the bell-birds active
in their harvesting and destroying, and in that, insistent.
Their unremitting turbine, and behind that another turbine
of some greater force, and that only just held-back.
The poem, ‘I return to my body’ is a wonderful poetic image of present day life and society. The poet explains about the day’s work, of being merchandise instead of a living being blessed with five senses. The ugliness of digital life, duality of human ethics, failures and confusion are cleverly concealed as motifs. The disaster of being a human itself is very well said in the poem as:
On the shelves
in the co-op there’s butter full of fatty acids and
there’s margarine full of emulsifiers.
Animal, synthetic, diglycerides and preservatives
visible pattern (iso-grid) stiffening.
My brain is shrinking through lack of sleep.
Suffering of the ecosystem exercises an active influence on the poem, ‘Many ways, in pieces’. The poet starts to peel away the grotesque human action by saying:
Watch the child until she goes through the door.
Do we learn: anything? That desire and light enter,
that we can choose analytics or ignore them.
It creates an economy in which we service each other
:the fire-tailed finch killed by ambition and certain clarity
the mouse drowned in a bucket and boiled for her bones.
Tundra defrosts in a methane stink of rot.
In ‘Mapping progress’, the poet portrays nature by saying all that can be said to make a difference, with sympathy, with temperament to create rightful impact. The poet says:
The maps also acknowledge men died, their throats cut as examples
of the mechanical, with stipples so predictable
for Empire [to be] insulted.
The god lies deviated poet-soldier-courtier, the great river virtually
identical, devout of fertility, awaiting either mortality
or population replacement
In the poems, ‘Reality very close to a dream’, and ‘Early lessons in colonialism’ the poet is explaining destiny in simple elemental passions.
Poetic inventions in the poem, ‘Killing time’ are brilliant. It is about a contract killer remembering America. It is a poem with many dimensions, a huge canvas that has both grass and moving cloud. The poet takes the reader through nature, human frivolities, weaknesses, Environmental surroundings, digitalised worldly pleasures, jobs, cars, streets, everything. For a reader it is like being on a roller-coaster, emotions stretched to the extreme. The strain of the poet becomes worthy once the reader realises the force of the word play:
…And how in those stories, before they worked it out,
the bodies pushed up from their graves like it was Judgement Day.
In ‘Notes to architects’, the poet opens up the human closet to empty out the best kept weaknesses. The poet explores our concrete world in poems, ‘Hotels’, ‘The private house’, ‘Shopping malls’, ‘Car showrooms’, ‘Piers’, ‘Towers’, ‘Bridges’, ‘Pleasure grounds’ and thoughtfully makes the reader aware of the comfort of air-conditioners, momentarily giddy balconies, overtired rooms, foot traffic, sparkling reefs, sequins, satellite dish, sky pagodas, clever thievery of structures promising view of sky, silhouettes, sundry domes and such. It is these that stand for ‘comforts’ in human world; psychological peace is acquired through such materialistic elements and the reader is struck by the fact that one rarely thinks above and beyond these things.
‘Some sketchy notes on matter’ is one of the poems grouped under the name ‘In the valley’. The poet laments on manmade life complications. A digital wave has swept off much of human qualities creating a void. Human activities are also punishing nature, the ecosystem. The poet says:
…Cement trucks line up in a new street; pump
suburb over mud. Land that’s criss-crossed with creeks
and scrub. Reed banks, piled earth and muddy pools –
tangible interfaces with material properties.
Absurd delusions have gained such intensity that they have become a new norm. Bringing up such digitalised existence, the poet says:
Funfair, parents, child – you try to hold them
in your head because maybe ( just maybe) it’s the only
place they fully exist. And yet I need to free up
space in my life (not everything is held in the clouds).
Let’s slow this down, do the calculations,
And see where the child is going.
The poet returns to nature once again for solid sense, for grounding, in the poem, ‘Horizon’. Earth reality that has to be attained is expressed as:
Out in the garden the lorikeets are reverent
in a chatty way. The light says we are beside the sea
a glimpse of water and fuschia.
There’s kangaroo paw. In everyone’s gardens
the horizon. We read
the possibility of summer in the sound of insects
the wind chilling, showers possible and changeable.
Some Sketchy Notes on Matter by Angela Gardner has the ability to construct a form in a reader’s mind. Creating a pleasing atmosphere for peaceful inspiration in readers’ minds is a key target of writing poetry and this book of amazing poetry achieves this. Aesthetic ideas posses the power to transform one’s perception and Some Sketchy Notes on Matter does just that.
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.