Nebuchadnezzar is Shelton Lea’s ninth and last book. Sadly, this colourful poet, a well-loved stalwart on the Melbourne reading circuit, died of cancer in May 2006, shortly after its publication.
The book begins by surveying a ‘land of fences and diatribes’ (‘1988’). It describes the inhabitants of Koori streets: ‘old men with no tomorrows / who rock on broken chairs / and stare at a bitumen sea’ (‘fitzroy’). Lea was an advocate for Aboriginal causes, and his poems often celebrate marginalised people who must summon the desire to survive. This burden of grit grounds life in harsh experience, before a remarkable lift-off.s a sort of coda, and satisfyingly resonates to the final page, in this assured début collection.