I am not overly
Gregarious. I wait and I watch. I keep a decent
Silence. But there are some skills where I have power.
At times I have spun a silk web strong as wire.
These are the final lines of a poem entitled ‘Endings 111’ in Tom Shapcott’s recently published collection of poetry, The City of Empty Rooms. The poem is included in the final two sections of the book devoted to memories of a Queensland childhood, more particularly recollections of growing up in the inland town of Ipswich. As David Malouf suggests in the blurb, ‘this is a late book that sometimes sharply, sometimes forgivingly looks back, but always with the freshness of things felt and seen anew in a living present’.
The lines I have quoted mesh with my own recollections of the poet: a modest man, a great listener and storyteller, quite able to manage long silences in conversation and his own diffidence. I first corresponded with Shapcott when he was editing the collection of poetry, Australian Poetry Now, published in 1970 by the admirable Sun Books. As an editor, Shapcott was diligent in searching out new voices and providing publication opportunities for young poets without a national reputation.