Hell or High Water by Alastair McIntosh
This is an incredible book. I loved Mcintoshs last book soil and soul. Infact it is a life changing incredible read. This is different, Whereas in Soil and Soul Mc Intosh goes from Autobiography, to campaign history to deep ecology, poetry and theology all in a tapestry that challenges the psycology of death and nihilism presented by mainstream corporate greed. This book seperated in to two parts firstly explores contemporary sciences view of climate change, and secondly explores the modern human condition asking essentialy; why do we keep destroying our selves and our environment? And what can be done to transform us from “peddlars of death to seekers of life”. The books tone can ocasionaly sound didactic and presumptious of our complete agreement with the authors conclusions “as we saw earlier…” or “as we shall see…” are regularly used phrases. The main thing that strikes me about Alastairs writing is it’s poetry, depth, and the huge Love and sensativity shown to all life. It is very humbling and beautiful to behold. He can really tell a story too. It is difficult to read his perspective about us living in a dieing time of huge extinctions and human suffering. And hard to deny it’s truth. It allso strenghtens his argumant that we need very badly to have a depth of soul, love and inner life, that can deal with loss, chaos, and violence and still give the gift that makes life worth living. Read this Beautiful Book!
Thom Gunn’s Collected Poems
One of the most exciting and challenging bodies of poetry created over the past forty years, Thom Gunn’s Collected Poems offers a heady Anglo-American cocktail of liberal sensuality, often contained within surprisingly conventional forms.
Gunn’s poetry is characterised by a cool sense of intellectual detachment, and a penetratingly lucid ability to follow experience to its resolvable core. This sensibility is offered in disarmingly casual, laid-back tones inherited from post-60’s American poetry. Gunn successfully pulled off that rare and necessary trick of re-inventing himself through American poetry, thus bypassing the pedestrianism which blighted so many of his British contemporaries. This ongoing re-invention and self-resurrection is one of the most interesting and inspiring subtexts of his Collected Poems.
“He turns revolt into a style, prolongs/The impulse to a habit of the time.”
Turning revolt into a style was to prove Gunn’s directive. While the allegorical poems from his first two books still draw on unsurprising themes and employ myth and religion rather conventionally to explore their subjects, a liberating undertow of defiance is everywhere present. In “High Fidelity”, a poem about listening to records, Gunn’s metaphysical playfulness works to impose reason on an emerging pop culture:
“I play your furies back to me at night,/ The needle dances in the grooves they made,/ For fury is passion like love, and fury’s bite/ These grooves, no sooner than a love mark fades…”
Gunn’s first five collections, represented in the first half of Collected Poems, gave little indication of his coming out as a gay man. The acid landscape of Moly, however, seems to have provided a space of psychological transition necessary for the poet to write more explicitly about his sexuality. Since Jack Straw’s Castle (1976), his work has been explicitly informed by the details of his engagement with the gay subculture and its interactions with the culture at large. It is also more explicit about his interior emotional landscape.
Ten years lapsed between Gunn’s publication of The Passages of Joy (1982) and The Man With Night Sweats (1992). This interval is in part attributable to the adjustment, personal and poetic, to watching a generation liquidated by AIDS. The plague and its increasing casualties have proved a central subject for Gunn’s later poetry, and by the final phase of the Collected Poems he has taken on the role of principal elegist to a virally stricken gay community. The poem “Elegy” first provided Gunn the stripped-down manner and elegiac tone which he needed for his task, and which he has subsequently made inimitably his own. Here, a sense of the unwavering terror at the heart of suicide is powerfully evoked:
“Though I hardly knew him /I rehearse it again and again/ Did he smell eucalyptus last?/No it was his own blood/as he choked on it”
In Thom Gunn’s incarnation as a compassionate, deeply humane elegist to dying friends, his touch is neither too grave nor too light. Steeped in 17th century poetry-a period rich in the elegist’s art-he proved himself as adept at writing formal couplets in the celebration of the dying or the dead as he had at writing free verse. “The Missing” is a particularly successful late poem in Gunn’s canon. In it, he perceives himself as belonging to a universal gay family, a resilient but continuously reduced nucleus in which survival is all.
“Now as I watch the progress of the plague,/ The friends surrounding me fall sick, grow thin, /And drop away. Bared, is my shape less vague/Sharply exposed and with a sculpted skin?// I do not like the statue’s chill contour,/ Not nowadays. The warmth investing me /led outward through mind, limb feeling and more/ In an involved increasing family. // Contact of a friend led to another friend, /Supple entwinement through the living mass /Which for all that I knew might have no end, /Image of an unlimited embrace.”
Nobody has or will put this better. Gunn’s achievements over four decades of writing are those of an innovator pushing the boundaries of the accepted subject matter of poetry. He is a master of the compressed lyric executed in formal stanzas, yet he is always modern. And he is compellingly truthful as he celebrates those who live on the cutting edge of social and sexual issues in our crazily up-ended, but always meaningful world.