WILLIAM OXLEY: NAMASTE
99 Torriano Avenue
ISBN 1 870841 95 6
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Subsequent books include WORKING BACKWARDS (Acumen ISBN 978 1 873161 17 3); SUNLIGHT IN A CHAMPAGNE GLASS (Rockingham ISBN 978 1 904851 29 5)
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This page last updated: 20th March 2009.
|WILLIAM OXLEY: NAMASTE|
Oxley's latest collection of poetry NAMESTE explores his sojourn in Tibet, using it as a metaphor for his interior state. Or, as Oxley informs us in the title poem,
I was the watcher, watched.When Oxley describes
the heaving streets of Kathmanduhe also declares that his encounters begin his holiday of
misunderstanding in a land of real imagination.It is a philosophical judgment that will lead the reader into a land of gods, people and places. In his search for the "god-within-us" Oxley admits his failure to "see and do nothing.
But is shames to see what I see and do nothing but guzzle an alien culture and pass by on the other side of life.Oxley's expansive lines and controlled use of stanzas in discursive meditative poems reflect his ability to find adequate means for his vision of reality. Often his quest to find himself and his spirituality leads Oxley into nostalgia and his remembered journey is suffused with delight. KRISHNARPAN, for example, gives the read
Deep-pan Krishnarpan golden restaurant and food Byzantium feeding spirit and sense.The nostalgic theme runs throughout the book for Oxley feels himself isolated and estranged by the temples, shrines, mountains and poverty that surround him.
The idea of NAMASTE as an external structure for internal feeling also serves as a metaphor for Oxley's conception of memory. In SEEING NOT KNOWING, Oxley discovers
people no stranger can ever know.The real mountains, terraces, precipices, grasses and communal get-togethers dissipate into an idealized recollection that corresponds to the poet's inner struggle as a stranger in a strange land where he
. . . can only see not know their lives, only guess at this or that . . .Memories of the little villages, the Embassy, a woman's beautiful head are re-invented and re-inhabited whenever Oxley wishes to call them into being, as a way of understanding and relating to the people and places he has seen. The constant voice, which Oxley inhabits throughout the book, is one of remarkable ease and interest in the situations in which he is placed. Oxley's trails of direction are a means of getting to the point. He gives concrete evidence to illustrate and enliven his meditations. One of his theses is that time and place can be recaptured to embody the eternal. SUSPECTS OF THE FORBIDDEN asserts that
and only when we'd left, were gone, did it occur to us months on we had entered, who shouldn't, places off-limits to western races.Oxley uses simple diction and undemanding syntax because he believes words are capable of rendering the veracity of his feelings as in THE MOUNTAINS' STARE, when he says
To see such sights is to feel the soul run out, throw off its pains in exquisite pain, give up the lassitude of modernity that cannot get a grip on anything.But Oxley's enterprise is not solely to recreate his experiences, but to comment on them as in EX-PAT PARTY (KATHMANDU), a poem that takes us "behind the scenes" as it were. The mansion
plonked in the middle of a shanty townillustrates the differences between ex-pats and locals. This displacement of the ordinary could be seen as an illusion or fiction, as it seems obvious it is, in rendering the truth as a work of art. At the same time, works of art rely on a semblance of reality and accurate portrayal in order to communicate themselves to us. Oxley's meditative lines use imagery to portray his meanings and capture his understanding of this marvellous country. There are many beautiful and provocative thoughts in this collection of poems. Beautiful and credible experiences are enunciated professionally and with empathy.
|reviewer: Patricia Prime.|