© 2020 by Bee Williamson. All rights reserved.

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The Heart is the Garden

Review written by Louisa John-Krol

 

Speckled with melodic, alliterative phrases such as “the birds are the bridges” (intro), this book conveys communication between Mala (scribe) and Deva (muse). There’s a vibrant interplay of formal and colloquial language. Compare the cheerful, casual lingo of “so just shoot, ask me a question!” (p.38) with: “languid in repose, / we ruminate on life” (p.33).


“The eclectic suffering of our people” (p.25) is a remarkable phrase that encapsulates the spiritual alchemy of this book. References to Sufi, Indian, African, Jewish, Amerindian, Tao and Christian figures mingle with Celtic animistic explorations of the overlap between a tree and a person, interwoven with Aboriginal lore; e.g. the Mimi (p.20); “the spirit that inhabits the land” (p.40) embraces the Dreaming, respectfully acknowledging how “the aboriginal population... have been beguiled and belittled” (p.56).

 

All this overlays the “Buddhic realm” (p.24); “transcendental consciousness” (p.25); “Bodhi Gaia, the tree of enlightenment where the Buddha sat” (p.67) and an overt tribute to the Dalai Lama. Such allusions enjoy organic integration, celebrating “all earth’s tribes” (p.71). There are hints of idealism, reaching for “spiritual progress”, yet ultimately this poetry is a humble record of “dialogue between the garden and my soul” (p.8), at times with acute command, urging: “Talk planet talk!” (p.11). Which prompts us to ask ourselves, how well can we listen?


Structurally, verses ramble like vines in an extended metaphor. I found this comforting, and smiled with irony at the eucalyptus leaves on the book’s cover, as a bushfire raged toward our station platform last Summer. Incidentally, this edition is visually superb. 


Reception might be hampered by lapses in spelling, grammar or punctuation, as in confusion of to / too, wonder / wander and affect / effect. Granted, this can enhance subtle ambivalence; “Your everything” could either mean “You are / you’re” or “Your” for possession or belonging, given the mystical intermingling of being and place: poet as sibyl, transcending detail.

 

Similarly, use of “rapt” for “wrapped” (p.67) feels appropriate for rapture. And oversights are natural in channelling or communion. On the other hand, thorough proof-reading might help more readers to access the beauty being shared, if communication is not only between muse and scribe, but also between poet and reader? Bee’s poetic vision is genuine, rare and magical. It’s such a privilege to encounter, an editor would surely be honoured to tend this garden of verse.


Poetic references include Rumi - “let your tongue become that flower” (p.73); Whitman’s Leaves of Grass; Blake’s more ecstatic poems; and Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus and Dueno Elegies, which explore nature as mute divinity awaiting Naming, charging us with responsibility to hear and heed; attuning or retuning ourselves to its wavelength.


“We speak of earth time under a splendid banner”: a great line. A lucid moment that rises, glorious and dignified above the vapidity of our era. Let’s close this review with two of my favourite stanzas (on p.19). Note their gorgeous symmetry:

“The Sun drops
it sways
it is smooth

The sun falls asleep,
it slips
it sways”