Lucy Alexander, Strokes of Light. Canberra: Recent Work Press, 2020. ISBN: 9780648834304
We need a Wordsworth to see daffodils. That is the unencumbered power of poetry in particular and of literature in general. Expression of thoughts in words forms a foundation for a belief in progress. It also serves as an example of truth. Though the origin and expectation of poets’ thoughts are often misrepresented, the truth comforts the readers’ mind. A writer’s sensibility turns to the contemplation of a reader’s consciousness.
Hence, Strokes of Light by Lucy Alexander is a work of relative selflessness that engages reader fascination. This is possible when the literary work makes no sign of labour and the author creates it with no hope of reward of any sort.
The poet of Strokes of Light conquers thoughts in four parts, ‘Strokes of Light’, ‘Childpoems’, ‘Flight From Gravity’ and ‘Luminous Things’.
The poem, ‘Strokes of Light’ reminds one of the saying, ‘There’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip’. There are thoughts that never materialise to words. A home with contradictions and practical conflicts, Mind indeed becomes an old witch’s house. As the conscious poet, a trespasser tries to think, rain of thoughts find a place to rest on paper, and the poet knows not to rake up ash in the oven, ‘the burnt out thoughts’, that may spoil the magic of the present moment. The poet says:
Here the brushstrokes are all downwards, like rain that comes in as thick as hard pressed crayon. The old house certainly a witch’s with owls nesting in the cloven roof beams, their eyes the glimpse of paper beneath the overworked surface. A slim trespasser lights a match on her shoe and counts seconds between the warning strokes of light tearing up sky, before touching it to the paper. Smoke flies out the chimney – all fear no heat, gone without even leaving dents in the shading where ink might find a place to pool.
In this light, the poem ‘Deathcap’ haunts for the bewitching fructified thoughts. The poet says:
The witch still shuttles through dreamscapes, doesn’t matter how many times she is told she is not there. Fire, the mocker of magic, flares among the graphite smoke; trespassing again and again on memory’s chimney.
‘A mystic is a person who has a direct experience of the sacred, unmediated by conventional religious rituals of intermediaries’, Mirabai Starr, author of Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics, tells OprahMag.com. ‘A mystic is someone who has an experience of union with The One—and The One may be God, it may be Mother Earth, it may be the cosmos. That experience is rare, but everyone has them I think, where you momentarily forget that you are a separate ego, personality, self, and you experience your interconnectedness with all that is’, Starr continues.
In the poem, ‘Mystic’ the poet says:
It’s not easy being a mystic these days. Too much data to drink gradually; no time to taste blasted stars or poke in the pockets of your mind until you cough up ancestral memories. … smells metallic and full of exhaustion.
‘Sleep’ is a poem of profound meaning. It has cultural elements. It has transcendental belief. It surprises the reader by saying:
The future is surely made of sleep. Soft stuff of drip down cloud effect, bottle body drowsy, chimed with silence, doused with absence. The future forms from the past – dropping into moment after moment. We will be content with empty as there’s no choice but flit high but lay down low. She was not asleep, her face the rigid calm of not being there, after her family sang all night for three nights and the monks came and went taking their robes and the waft of incense. We send kites into the sky, we send paper cranes into the river, we send poems into the void…
After such like stoic flow, the poem, ‘Floodplain’ is distinctive. One’s mind should after all accommodate and deal with world’s thoughts too. The poet says:
The floodplain is full of the black earth we are made of. All of the world’s particles pass through this zone: yours, too. Have them arranged so your heart can weigh in. Have them in order, crystallised and formatted. The light frothing up will hold your new name. Hurry to smear this stinking mud all over your life events: erase them all.
In Childpoems, the poet explores Summer and Winter of childhood, the habitat and ecological relation of self towards picturesque surroundings. The poem ‘Summer’ puts:
My childhood was full of summer,
the sky riddled blue
and tiny cicadas clicked and hummed
as if they held out heat in their voices.
The poem ‘Winter’ says:
Every morning the frost
fitted onto everything – leaves,
cars and slithered onto roads.
The dog’s breath came out like dragons
our own caught light
and made rainbows.
The creed of poetry that emerges from, ‘River Child’, ‘Sea Child’, and ‘Sky Child’ is one of mildness and quiet thinking carrying profoundness. So the reader is taken through a different journey as the poet says:
hiding all her toes,
greener than a forest’s secret
running easily into the future.
into the wind his life
for a moment hooked on
If you fall you will swoop
musical light, a feather in sky.
In the ‘Afterword’, the poet mentions:
Sometimes a poem echoes with strange premonition.
Under the ordinary plying of words in sequence is the remarkable position they leave one another in.
Poems under ‘Flight from Gravity’ are such poems playing on the psyche of the reader, stirring one’s mind to deep thinking. In the poem, ‘Crow’, the poet says:
I hail the wind. …
… but I will not follow its instruction. With my feathers I winnow the direction, I sift it for my intentions. I cannot take me, the way I take flight from gravity. Burned I was. Burned more than Magpie who kept her voice. Burned I was. Burned more than Currawong who calls evening into being and plots all night with the fire still in her eye.
‘Magpie’, ‘Rooster’, ‘Cat’, ‘Dog’, ‘Snake’, everything seems to take flight from gravity to the poem, even the mushroom that sinks back to soil. After taking the reader through this refreshing journey, the poet settles down for inspirational poetry in ‘Luminous Things’, making the reader sit down and listen to her thoughts on dream, dusk, spring day, beach, shore, pears, and mountains.
Clear and consistent, Lucy’s poetry aims at something deep. Imagination and visioning are primary requirements of the reader of poetry and ‘Strokes of Light’ just brings awareness of that singular truth, making it a nice collection of literary merit.
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.