All Travellers We - Poems for Shelton Lea
...an exceptional poetry book - exquisite!
The poems are simply gorgeous, beautifully written, and above all, honest...
i do not want to go out as
i do not want to go out as
frenzied molecules trapped by
as if all moments are this, of this
& more or less, this.
we dance with jack
through thinning air
our desires a questionnaire.
Born in 1946, Shelton Lea was adopted from an orphanage in Fitzroy. At twelve he ran away from his adoptive parents, living by his wits on the streets of Melbourne. Over the ensuing years he did time in reform schools and prisons, wherein he wrote love poems for the sweethearts of fellow inmates in exchange for contraband. He then travelled widely and began a lifelong commitment to write about Australia’s black and white dilemmas. After living in Sydney during the 1960s, Lea moved back to Melbourne, where he was associated with the vibrant Heide set and worked with Barrett Reid on Overland.
An extremely engaging performer of his work, he also served as mentor to several generations of budding poets all over the country. Lea read his poetry in schools, pubs, performance venues, prisons, universities, and anywhere across the nation where eager and captivated crowds would gather to hear him read and speak.
His elegant generosity of spirit, eternal optimism, and far-reaching influence on Australian poetry will echo into the future. There will never be another like him.
From the "Foreward"
As Shelton lay ill, many friends (among them poets, musicians, actors, family, and friends from every walk of life) arrived with all types of presents. Many of these gifts were poems. Some were kept at the time, others arrived after his death, and many had been written (either for or about him) in previous years.
Jen Jewel Brown encouraged me to keep these for a possible book. Kerry Scuffins pushed hard for its birth, and with the rest of the gang: Jordie Albiston, Lyn Boughton, Martin Downey, Ian McBryde, Peter Tiernan, Raffaella Torresan, and myself, joined together to bring this to fruition.
To those who may not be represented here, this book simply fell into its own space and time, and was virtually born of itself. Our credo was immediate and simple: to publish a collection which honours Shelley’s unique journey and work, by those who shared his life and loved him to the end.
Leith Woodgate, Melbourne, July 2008
Cover photograph by Raffaella Torresan.
Published - 2008
I miss you though you’re not even
Dead neither sick in body nor ill in
Head just gone from me and so it
Goes I miss you though you’re not
Dead I stare at the sky so you will
not die musty lace clouds Miss
Haversham’s slice loping slyly the
grey southern lights I miss you so
I miss you though there is yet more
your cane still tap-p-ing the book
strewn floor your grit still spitting
out Poem! Poem! your ship still
sitting just there just out from shore
In response to Shelton Lea’s poem...
I am keeping my eye out
for a peach melba hat.
And I will keep it in
soft tissue paper
in a white cardboard box.
When I am eighty,
I will wait for a day
when the sun shines warmly,
And I will feel
my white linen dress
smooth against my skin.
And, I will sit,
stately in my years,
in the right seat,
at the back
of the right bus.
And I will wait,
for the smile
and the charming words.
I will accept them
as they are.
I will catch them,
before they are stifled
by the gauche etiquette
of some imbecile
protecting my aged dignity,
As I remind
of my aged femininity.
shelton lea’s book-shop
you won’t find it under that name
& although it’s on a corner
a block from a shopping centre
opposite a church, a school
& tucked in behind a pub
people aren’t sure it exists
people peer through th bars at th books
those in th know slide the bars across
once in, you trip over boxes
sprawl into a slough of poetry
dedicated to lovers, discarded
MEDICAL BOOKS past their use-by date
LAW you’ll find under KOORRI
PHOTOGRAPHY is hardest to find
or else it’s blind people asking for it
shelton sits in a haze of smoke
playing patience on his computer
a woman with no money asks to look at th book
he keeps in th house, th one with th pictures
I mind th shop
I tell the girl who asks for PHOTOGRAPHY
it’s next to th BRAILLE section
I catch another bloke loitering in CRIME
reading th last page of every thriller
BUDDHISM’S across th room from RELIGION
between ASTROLOGY & ASTRONOMY
customers come in with their poems
& beg shelton to praise them
they leave without buying a book
I put up a sign
advice: one henry lawson an hour
student poets fly out of th chrysalis
of shelton’s shop
cassie lewis from eaglemont
& how many wobbly flights have been launched
from de havilland’s?
soaring club at clifton hill
flying kites indoors
th tug of love
th broken string of prom i ses
feral gardens admire th weeds
like central american republics
bookshops arise now!
shelley is at large
All Travellers We
4 August 2008
All Travellers We is an exceptional poetry book - exquisite! Great balance between the expository and free flow.
I don’t think I am being presumptious to suggest that Shellie would be pleased with this effort and, he would have grown ears just to hear these poems being read by their authors come launch night...
It feels good in the hand, and it reads well. The poems are simply gorgeous, beautifully written, and above all, honest. I particularly liked Ian McBryde’s poem; extremely good, perhaps his finest achievement in poetry. And there was a surprising poem, called ‘Tonight,’ which caught my eye - it glistened...
Everyone involved in the publication should be congratulated.