The Strangest Place : Stephen Edgar

Rest of the World

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ook Description

They have their stratagems too, though they can’t move.
They know their parts.
Like invalids long reconciled
To stillness, they do their work through others.
They have turned the world
To their own account by the twisting of hearts

The strangest place, this world of fact and figment we astonishingly find ourselves inhabiting, is the territory that Stephen Edgar’s poetry has been probing and framing for over four decades now, looking out on the evanescent representations of light and inwards on the mind and “the gyre of its own consciousness”, feeling “toward the labyrinth just behind Creation’s serene surface”, as Alan Gould described it, and “trying to keep faith poetically with that strangeness of the world”, in the words of Peter Steele.

The Strangest Place offers a retrospective on Edgar’s career, with selections from each of his previous ten books. Opening the collection is a book-length section of new poems, Background Noise, which continues and extends the range of his meditations, with characteristic technical mastery, interspersed with the title’s leitmotiv, whether the notes of lorikeets in the morning trees, echoing voices in an abandoned railway tunnel, the mind’s running commentary or the cosmic hum beyond the death of the stars.

Cover Image: Judith Nangala Crispin
Anika lifting to her ancestors, on a spider-string, over
Mt Cooroora, in Kabi-Kabi country - Lumachrome glass print 

ISBN 9780648038740
302 pgs
$29.00 Australia
$39.00 International

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Book Sample

From Background Noise : New Poems


A spattering of early sun
Flung through the high leaves of the eucalypts,
Like dabs and splashes of shellac,
Or spangles on a pool cast up to stun
The ceiling. So, the day is back.
Each note of the rainbow lorikeets encrypts
A quick scintilla, a synaesthetic pun.

By ten, the house is all your own.
She’s gone to work. And the dog, you keep forgetting,
Is gone now too. The radio
Emits its unattended monotone,
A streaming sonar beam, as though
Sounding the day’s deceptive depths, and vetting
The echoes for what must remain unknown.

The rooms take on the false proportions
Flaunted in real estate advertisements,
Unless perhaps it is the hours
That swell and stretch the place with their distortions.
A crane up on the hill’s crest towers
Over a future you can’t influence,
Against which your faint heart inanely cautions.

Later, as daylight starts to fail,
The two of you sit out in the courtyard with
A glass of wine and watch for Mars
Emerging in the heavens. And now, a pale
Astonishment against the stars,
The full moon rises to recite its myth.
Like children, how you love to have that tale

Retold. You never tire of it.
Well before dawn you wake up to the mind,
And its inveterate rigmarole,
Staring into the dark till you commit
That act of faith you can’t control,
Conscious again, you realize, and consigned
To the monstrous world you’re terrified to quit.

From Corrupted Treasures

The Secret Life of Books

They have their stratagems too, though they can’t move.
They know their parts.
Like invalids long reconciled
To stillness, they do their work through others.
They have turned the world
To their own account by the twisting of hearts.

What do they have to say and how do they say it?
In the library
At night, or the sun room with its one
Curled thriller by the window, something
Is going on,
You may suspect, that you don’t know of. Yet they

Need you. The time comes when you pick one up,
You who scoff
At determinism, the selfish gene.
Why this one? Look, already the blurb
Is drawing in
Some further text. The second paragraph

Calls for an atlas or a gazetteer;
That poem, spare
As a dead leaf’s skeleton, coaxes
Your lexicon. Through you they speak
As through the sexes
A script is passed that lovers never hear.

They have you. In the end they have written you,
By the intrusion
Of their account of the world, so when
You come to think, to tell, to do,
You’re caught between
Quotation marks, your heart’s beat an allusion.

From Transparencies

The harbour’s idle undulations slew
And swill their slicks of glaze to make
An unimaginable shape in time
The mind would ache
To contemplate. Above, small figures climb
The bridge, aspiring to a simpler view.

Down on the upper deck of the toy ferry
Now sliding underneath that span,
Deep in today’s political polemic,
A businessman
May miss the news that renders academic
That puppet show, and makes unnecessary

Proposals he is anxious to embrace,
Initiatives already planned,
Between the tropics and the poles, between
The Ice Age and
The Holocaust, juju and mutant gene,
Planck’s constant and the curvature of space.

Tethered in mid-Pacific still revolves
The dateline, dealing out the days
Like there was no tomorrow. Each of them
Plays and replays
Self-replicating hours—a theorem
Of endless present it propounds and solves.

And here, out from the shadow of the bridge,
The ferry surges into this
Ceramic swash, whose crazing would defy
The businessman reads on, but you and I,
Illiterates of trade and leverage,

And risk too intricate for even Lloyd’s
To cover, simply watch the slurs
Of gloss and shifting craquelure. They say
It’s Jupiter’s
Vast mass that draws off, and may hurl our way,
A terminating hail of asteroids.

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