Petrus Spronk

The first poem I ever read, and which moved me intensely, was ‘Ozymandias’ by Shelley – a poem, about the transience of life, so realistically painted that without having to read it over and over, I am often reminded of it. It served as inspiration for my ‘Architectural Fragment’. That and my walks around the Island of Samos, one of the most poetic experiences of my life. Imagine traversing a road, made from huge blocks of stone now worn soft, with rounded edges, polished by endless leather clad, and bare, feet. A road some 6000 years old, thrown with architectural fragments, historical fragments. Ancient sculptures in the landscape each with a story to tell. How do we unearth these secrets? Poetry?

After these intense experiences I often felt that a life without poetry would be terrible, like a house without any colour, decoration or personal adornment. Like a meal without flavour or smell. Like a lover without a heart. Like a life in Black and white. Like always living in winter.

Poetry makes our days and lives special. Colours it in. I am not talking about the poetry of words or language only, but also about the poetry of Art, Architecture, Theatre, Film and Gardening. The poetry of a walk around the lake, the poetry of the preparation of a meal, the poetry of creative making and the poetry of filtered sunlight through the trees. Each and every aspect of life contains poetic content. However, it takes a little work, and attitude, to find it. If those finding it happen to be artists or poets, their work will expose the poetry in the experience for us to enjoy. This enriches our lives.

“What is a man who has no landscape” The poet creates it for him. The artist paints it for him. The musician plays it for him. The actor makes it real for him. In ancient cultures I have visited, such as Greece, Ireland and Korea, poetry is part of the language, not apart from it like here in Australia, where the poet, like the artist, is almost a stranger, a curiosity. At best an eccentric.

Poem Scape

Poetry: The Power Of Language To Restore.

Distant memories from my diaries, where I found this bit of local history.

There is another local poetry story which needs to be acknowledged again. This needs a little quiet time, a gentle approach, a moment of contemplative attitude. A state to receive and appreciate.

I am talking about ‘Poem Scape’, A public sculpture which is quietly, and unassumingly, growing in Daylesford, commissioned by the Library and created by Patrick Jones, a local artist, who with the assistance of many poets made something quite special for us. It has been a while in the making since it was a combined effort from the Library, the Artist and the Council. You do not need much imagination to see potential problems looming. This project was a new experience for each of the three parties. Each dared to take risks. Each also dealt with the myriad of difficult aspects involved in the making of a public statement. Yet each worked with trust and this made it work out in the end. We, the audience, are the richer for it.

You’ll find the work in front and around the corner of the library. We could express our gratitude and thanks for these efforts of love and positive energy from so long ago, by going to visit the work. By walking the poetry walk. By enjoying the words, by enjoying the blossoms during spring and the shade in summer (there is a seat). By giving it some time. By bringing to it an open heart and mind and a generous attitude. If, after enjoying the work you feel the need to respond, leave a note under the door of the Library. Be generous with your words. I am sure all those involved would love some feed back. I know I would.

Without, at first, reading any of the poetry I walked around the installation to establish a feel for the sculptural aspect of the work. I took some time to allow some dialogue to develop. The supermarket and car-park just across the road (both of which also had the potential to be poetic) reminded me of another, very subtle, piece of Public Art. It precedes the present work, and was also installed in front of the Library during the development of the supermarket and the events surrounding it. The work was created by local artist Peter Tyndall. On 7th April 1998, the artist attached a rectangular brass plate with the words: “detail: A Person Looks At A Work Of Art/ someone looks at something …” to the wooden seat in front of the library. The following day the artist published a letter of explanation in the local Advocate (8th of April 1998). Due to the subtle nature (of the artwork) not many people seemed to have noticed it. I loved it. The thought. The action. The generosity of the gesture. The spontaneity. The open doorway to a new way of looking at a situation. It is still worth reading that letter.

Back to the present work. The first thing I noticed about the sculpture was that each young tree, planted as part of the project, was connected, with a beautifully fashioned piece of steel cord, to a block of wood. The fragment of an old tree. Like a mother, or father, and child, like the experienced and inexperienced, like wisdom taking innocence by the hand for guidance. I found that a very telling aspect of the work, because, in a beautiful way, it reflects the role of the library. Besides the entertainment of reading, we go to the Library for guidance, information and learning. In time the young trees have grown and shade the old blocks of wood, and the guiding wisdom of the poetry they carry, from the elements. Pertinent parallels.

Next I took quite some time to read the actual poems. A slow walk through international poetry land. Some very special writing. After this reading, I reflected on the fact that there were two local poems. One by Peter O’Mara and one by Toby Syme, two of Daylesford’s foremost poets. Both poems, for my money, the best and most successful. Not necessarily because of their literary value, but because they relate to where we live and because it makes where we live an important issue to examine, to closely look at. An important role of any poem or piece of Public Art.

In hindsight I was not surprised to find those two local poets in a sculpture, especially in light of the cosy corner poetry nights we had around the turn of the century and the quality of work which came out of them. Two excellent books were published as a result. Two books of reference material included Poem-scape. I missed poems by younger people. I recall some of those poems as the highlights of our poetry evenings, and extremely moving. It is local poetry which sheds light on who we are, both in relationship to our environment and to ourselves. It is the poetry, from local poets, which paints in aspects of the landscape most of us are unable to see. It is the local poet who adds meaning. Young poets may not have the literary value we all aspire to, but they make up for it with honesty and colour. Especially honesty. Especially colour.

I need to congratulate each and every participant in the difficult work of connecting the council, the arts and the library into a wonderful result. Many people may enjoy it, many people may question it, many people may come across it in surprise. Better still, it may seduce many people into the library to enjoy its word treasures. To wonder, to learn, and to, in general, enlarge the view of their worlds to include a love for discovery and learning. As a Libra I am sure I will.

Petrus Spronk is a local artist and sculptor who contributes a monthly column to The Wombat Post.