A new book has just come my way – “Epiphanies – Poems of Liberation, Exile and Confinement”, written by Harvey Gillman, who lives in Rye, having worked for many years as outreach secretary for British Quakers.
For the poet, three things are necessary, a skill with words, a poetic imagination and something to say. Harvey Gillman possesses or is possessed by all three. He has a love of language and its derivation and has a happy fluidity of expression, honed over years in the study of French, Italian, Spanish and English, his native tongue.
His poetic imagination is evident throughout his poetry, as can be exemplified in his Colours of the Rainbow, a poem linking the heavenly promise of Peace with the reality of Auschwitz, a haunting vision. Then there can be no doubting the compulsion that drives the poetry, the need to speak his truth.
These are songs of recognition, often half-recognition, a yearning frustration at the incompleteness of the encounter, met in the physical world and the domain of the spirit. Open the book wherever it falls and the poem leaps off the page straight to the heart of the matter.
Searching for deeper meaning
Question and answer are often employed as a Socratic device for searching deeper meaning. The innocence of the question stirs profound memories, that this is a place we know or once knew. Images of regret, of challenge and defiance, and of emotional truth are all present in his work. The natural world forms both the background music and the signpost for our human understanding, of what we share and who we are.
His poems all have movement as poems should, but the progression, apparently quixotic, is sure to the mark, even if at the end one is left with the question unanswered. ‘To travel is better than to arrive’ said RL Stevenson; ‘To seek is better than to find’ replies Harvey Gilman.
These poems are a personal testament, perhaps intended for the eyes of friends but deserving of a wider audience. They celebrate the miracle and ambiguities of life with no end and no beginning. Not for this poet, I would think, are the certainties expressed by Gustav Mahler in the closing of his Resurrection Symphony with its haunting call of eternity: “ewig, ewig.”
Harvey Gilman’s faith is in the “almost, almost,” the thin connecting line between the beauty of this world and the beauty of the emanation, the immanence of the spirit, now present, now vanishing.
It is a book that upholds the tradition that poetry can speak to the age and should be heard. It may be purchased from the author at 28, Military Road, Rye TN31 7NY, price £5 (plus £1.53 p&p) or email email@example.com.
From the section headed Confinement comes this poem:
This earth is the same earth, is it not,
which we traversed with determination,
where, in former times, we ventured forth,
when travel was permitted, and choice was ours
over time and destination? This earth
now proclaims a different dominion.
It cries out from the fissures
we have torn in it, from the scars
we have clawed in it, from the brutality
of our embrace, our craving for conquest.
Yet we, defeated by victory, remain apart
until in the bowels of the earth we bury our dead,
and scatter our ashes in its still fertile loam.
Still even now it is ready to receive us.
We are its children, are we not, made of its flesh,
dust of its dust? Our hearts beat to its rhythms.
We spin as the earth spins. Though we tasted the fruit
of the tree of knowledge, and Eden became exile,
we remain the offspring of its seasons.
Still the earth offers us ground for our planting,
generous still if we would grow wise and tender,
earth for our planting, trees for our healing,
a new a fragile, an abundant harvest. Still.
Image Credits: Rye News library .