Brooke excels at pace and poignant reflection. Browning's main strength is the dramatic monologue. It has a virility borrowed from Shakespeare and a refinement all his own. Eliot's dense imagism needs to be constantly mined so that new treasure can be uncovered at each revisiting. All of them – along with hundreds of others – write great memorable poetry which snags mind, spirit and emotion.
But as a popular song can capture an essential truth, or mood, in the collective psyche, in her poem, Exile, Evangeline Paterson offers us a snapshot of the human condition through which we can find consolation in times of loss.
Yes, it is beautiful country,
the streams in the winding valley,
the knowes and the birches,
and beautiful the mountain's bare shoulder
and the calm brows of the hills,
but it is not my country,
and in my heart there is a hollow place always.
And there is no way to go back -
maybe the miles indeed, but the years never.
Winding are the roads that we choose
and inexorable is life,
driving us, it seems, like cattle
farther and farther away from what we remember.
But when we shall come at last
to God, who is our Home and Country,
there will be no more road stretching before us
and no more need to go back.
Evangeline Paterson (1928 – 2000) founder of Other Poetry
In his Rogue Strands blog, Matthew Stewart says:
Despite never having met her, I’ll always remember Evangeline Paterson with gratitude – she gave me my first decent magazine credits as editor of Other Poetry several years ago, backing my work every time I sent her off a batch. That encouragement was crucial to me at the time.
I chased down a copy of her New and Selected, titled Lucifer, with Angels and published by Dedalus (1994), enjoyed her poetry and desperately hoped she saw something of herself in my own incipient voice.
Perhaps the dispiriting part of this story is that news of her death reached me as I was immersed in her book, wondering how such talent had been sidelined by the contemporary poetry scene. Evangeline wrote clearly, imparting music and life to specific examples of universal issues. She was an excellent storyteller, squeezing her tales into concise verse, an undervalued attribute. Her self-effacing wit stood out, as in the ending to “A Wish For My Children”:
“and may you grow strong
all webs of my weaving.”
Any educated reader not used to poetry could engage with her work immediately, which is an acid test that I ask any poet to pass. Evangeline Paterson deserves a wider readership now, just as she did during her lifetime. If you can get hold of her poetry, I thoroughly recommend it.
http://www.newevepublishing.com (Still in construction. More pages soon.)
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