I wrote last time about my all-time hero Dylan Thomas. Continuing in the same vein, Australian poet Michael Hawke has a new anthology out, due to be published any day now. It’s a small-but-beautifully formed slim ebook volume of around a score of poems, with some illustration, entitled Vignettes. It’s an apposite title, as the poems are Michael’s reflections on life with it’s various joys and occasional vicissitudes. His use of language and creation of imagery is wonderful, and yet he’s able to paint his word-pictures with great economy. You won’t find pretentious, overblown, flowery prose (like the phrase I’ve just used!) in his work.
This is an eclectic collection by a poet who came to writing in later life. A late-flowerer, so to speak. Well, that’s all to the good. Michael’s words are expressive of great depth of life experience. He says that he hopes his poems engender empathy from the reader. Well I can tell you, Mr Hawke, they certainly do!
His canvass is broad – but then you don’t get much broader than life itself. He moves effortlessly from one subject to the next employing a diverse range of writing styles as appropriate, compassionately visiting the whole gamut of human experience: birth, youth, love, war, death, stargazing, the beauty of nature, the beauty of words, reminiscence in old age, art, religion, surfing the ocean, pets, creatures of the sea.
Here are some of my favourites:
The joy of Youth. Sweetly lyrical, it reads like a love song.
Mum. I don’t know whether it’s autobiographical – it almost sounds so – but it’s achingly poignant anyway.
Not Your Time. The short, terse style of writing suits the grim subject matter of this poem very well.
Starry Night. There seems to be a nod to Don McClean here, but it’s a lovely evocation of tranquillity looking skywards.
Ode to a Sparrow. This has a suitably chirrupy rhythm and is a humorous morality tale.
Love. The gentle eroticism of this is gorgeous.
The Wife. I like the teasing wit in this.
Words is very resonant for a writer.
Give Me a Break is sharply insightful.
Old Max and About My Cat will stir empathy in pet lovers.
Whalesong has a gargantuan subject for such a tiny four-line gem. It also inspires the book cover and Michael’s pen name, Nompie. it’s the Aboriginal name for ‘whale.’
I’ve picked out twelve poems with difficulty in choosing, but to be honest it could equally well have been the other nine. I really enjoyed them all. To reiterate, I think Michael’s concise and economical style is superb. It isn’t overly wordy and cuts straight to the chase. And yet he can really turn a phrase, such as ‘Whales puff and bob along the shore.’ His poetry is simply beautiful, in both senses of the word.
Bravo, Mr Hawke. More please!