The poems in the last section, like those in ‘Speaking’, limpidly evoke the power and majesty of the natural world, but on this occasion assume a third person view. There are many fine poems in this section but I found ‘The Deodar’ particularly memorable and poignant. The poem begins by conveying the sublimity of the evergreen coniferous tree:
In its branches were seasons and climates. Swathed in the hiss of wind It latched the earth to sky.
but the third stanza bluntly undercuts this vision:
It took four hours to cut the tree. Its parts were minced. Birds fled.
A tree that can live for more than one thousand years and contain an entire ecosystem is unceremoniously cut down and chopped up with no apparent thought for the world that it supports within and beneath its great and fragrant branches. The name deodar may come from the Sanskrit word, davadaru, meaning divine timber but there is no commensurate reverence and once the tree has gone, not even the air can stop to pay homage:
Now there is no embroidery No fretted cornices; the air is plain, and passes Swiftly without bowing.
Many influential figures in history have sought, in varying ways, to negate the lived experience and perception of animals. St. Thomas Aquinas and René Descartes, in particular, have much to answer for. Luckily, in the early 21st century, things are changing, and there are people who have worked at the forefront of animal welfare that we now, more than ever, need to listen to. One of these people is Christine Townend. Let’s hope that her resonant and deeply affecting debut poetry collection will, over time, forge a strong place within the hearts of Australians.