Poem of the Week - John Kinsella reads ‘A Spiral, After Blake's "Roughly sketched figures ascend the stairways of Paradise"

Friday, 11 March 2016 15:47 Australian Book Review
Published in Poem of the Week

In this episode of 'Poem of the Week' John Kinsella reads 'A Spiral, After Blake's "Roughly sketched figures ascend the stairways of Paradise." (Paradise, Canto 10, lines 72-87)’. ABR's Poetry Editor, Lisa Gorton, introduces John who then reads and discusses his poem.



A Spiral, After Blake's 'Roughly sketched figures ascend the stairways of Paradise.' (Paradise, Canto 10, lines 72-87)

Corellas over the crossed towers
make the dry a whirlpool sent
down to take the patient higher.

There's light in perfectly bent
wings and the catch of the beaks
is litany, all husks shed and spent

as reflections, refraction, dispersal
over the dry, the brittle, the aromatics
of olive leaves and eucalyptus and stubble.

As pilgrims hope to catch the wave
of a spiral, to elevate with its sweep
across faint sketches in the dirt, save

memories and prayers, the leaps
of faith they've held their lives
together with, the glimmers, the steep

learning curves of birth and loss,
they can't hear themselves speak
as the corellas call out the gloss,

the glare, the substance of light.
Some say it is a noise but they
miss the translation, peace of night.

John Kinsella

The quote in the title is taken from the summary for the illustration by Blake of relevant canto as found in William Blake's Divine Comedy Illustrations (Dover publications, New York: 2008)


John Kinsella's most recent book of poetry is Firebreaks (Wiley, 2016). He is a Professorial Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia and a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge. He edited the Penguin Anthology of Australian Poetry (2009).

Published in Poem of the Week

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