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Deaths and pretty cousins

CollectionsANU Press (1965- Present)
Title: Deaths and pretty cousins
Author(s): Campbell, David Watt Ian
Date published: 1975
Publisher: Canberra, ACT : Australian National University Press
David Campbell has served a long, serious apprenticeship in the craft and art of poetry. Now, in each new collection, structure is totally harmonised with content and each poem seems to spring effortlessly from the page, as astonishing and inevitable as the natural world where the poet moves with such ease; the senses transmitting colour, movement, shape and sound to the mind, and the mind transmuting these into the word. In many of the poems in Deaths and Pretty Cousins Campbell still draws upon this rural region which was the source of his first published poetry, and of which he has said, 'Sometimes I had the feeling that I was living and riding round in a world of my own creation'. The binding threads are as strong as ever but now he moves further and further afield in his explorations - of history, of paintings, of people: of other cultures, other times, other lives. To the reader of poetry the slow attainment of a poet's maturity is as exciting to watch as the emergence of a new talent. It is of necessity a slow process since all artists must first acquire and then discard: The gull turns on the wind and its brief shadow Falls cleanly through the wave On rippled sand. In stone its flight is stayed, A moment weathering to eternity. Campbell's brief poems on sandstone rock carvings provide a splendid example of this process. Mastery without loss of energy, knowledge without diminishment of inquiry, diversity of expression and singleness of purpose - all these combine in the work of the mature creative artist. A phrase describing the work of a poet who died nearly two thousand years ago seems equally true when applied to the work of David Campbell: 'the scales tremble, but the poet's hand is steady; it is the exciting equilibrium of mature art.' - R.D.


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