Publisher: Vagabond Press
Published: July 2021
Supervivid Depastoralism is the latest poetry collection from John Kinsella, one of Western Australia’s most prolific authors. The title indicates Kinsella’s continuing concern with environmental degradation (and tacitly Aboriginal dispossession). The Pastoral, which Kinsella considers deeply in this collection, was originally conceived in ancient Greek culture as a form of rural tranquillity in Arcadia, and the concept was taken up as a literary idea in the English Renaissance by Christopher Marlowe, Shakespeare and others. The Roman poet Virgil adapted Pastoral to include rural work and so introduced the Eclogue. This shift to realism was heightened by the English Romantics; John Clare, Wordsworth and others celebrated rural life rather than living, as Coleridge said, “In the great city, pent ‘mid cloisters dim”.
All this provides the background for Supervivid Depastoralism. Kinsella writes that now “it’s / impossible to justify pastorals / in any form” because “landscapes” are “fields of slaughter”. As poetry turned from the nineteenth century towards Modernism W B Yeats said that poets sought “to wring the neck of rhetoric” but Kinsella is unashamedly rhetorical. He writes from a “blast-zone of ethics”, of “Pastoral Conspiracies” wrought by “secretive and hoodwinking officials”.
The poems take various forms – long lines, short lines; long stanzas, couplets – but all are unrhymed free verse, and implicitly ask readers to accept Kinsella’s wide-ranging, intelligent voice. Kinsella claims, “I have fallen away / from communities” but apparently not from the community of writing, even though it leaves him “garbling at the edges” of the world and, it would seem, finding hope only in a nature outside human nature.