Comment: Pacific Star

Among the war medals I hold I came to value most the one that meant one’s small watch in the immensity of seas and nights during years which, like the war and the stars they defined, were ultimate. Within and beyond the compass that developed because of this, I found my stories of societies at war, and years of physical travel that became, like thought, as systemic as breathing. My present years in particular have, because of age, reinforced the ultimate. Hence the book’s sub-title, and its company of stars.

I am glad that a book of mine again engages war in a way anticipated by my Penguin Selected Poems: 1945-1993, and that it contains yet another lot of poems, a feature of later books, owing their existence to the physical fact of mind that is the United States. This time the lot is considerable. As a schoolboy, and onwards, I ”read” America; and, since the 1970s, I have travelled and looked often to America, with whom I served, and have been generously received there.

From the Penguin Book three related poems have been republished. I am putting in, for example, “The Moment”, one of my earliest poems published by the Sydney Bulletin and anthologised for 50 years. Its first draft was written in Bougainville. I am also republishing from the Penguin Book “Mullabinda”, which was anthologised for 25 years and then, because of political interference, shelved; and “Scuttled Bottled Corked Washed Up”. From The Ebony Gates (UCQPress, 1996) I have added, in revised form, “The Lovetree”, “Humdingers” and “The Lament”.

The book may reflect how long ago it is that I fought for “survivor’s words”. If it does, it may also be seen as a final answer to the question of how then, for the rest of my life, I fought to write amongst people who withstood me for the rest of theirs. They were feudal, and another reason that I looked to America for periodic residence and relief. There can be more to surviving than returning.

New poems, and all but the six given above are completely new, were published by The Weekend Australian Review, The Australian’s Review of Books, Southerly and the Goethe Institute. A number were used in anthologies in North America.

I have to point out that my list of book-titles includes several volumes that were subsumed by publishers under the titles of others. I lost books; now restored.

Notes, some amounting to little histories, have been provided for certain poems where, as in Poems For America, all references seemed needed. For the rest, they are there in case I am not around to give anymore readings and comment. There is a transport standing by with my name on it, even though I don’t want to leave the world.

[The above preface entitled Pacific Star introduces a larger volume of poems bearing the same title, from which “Poems For America” has been separated out as being worthy of further attention. The series has been placed on the Internet for this reason.]