Robert Wood on “Redgate” (Australia)
My “Redgate” poems come from a real place, which is located to the south of Margaret River in the south west of Western Australia. It is a coastal place, being both a beach and a collection of houses that are scattered nearby. A short drive to the east is the township of Witchcliffe, which has a population of around 100. Redgate is bordered to the west by the Indian Ocean. South is Boranup Forest and north is Gnarabup, a small beach protected by reef.
I have spent a lot of my life at Redgate, which is where we have a family home of the same name. To me, Redgate functions as a word synonymous with pleasure, satisfaction, relaxation, joy, enlightenment. This is not to say that it is a place without difficulty, but at the end of the day, I love being there. In these poems, I have built from that positive sense to describe a Redgate of the mind’s eye, a poetic territory that combines the gnomic with the lyric, with an emphasis on the reconciliation between Eastern and Western philosophies, ideal as those types are. In that way the poem is dialectical, just as it represents the ongoing antagonisms between ‘nature’ as an unmediated, raw state and the presence of the polluted, occupied present.
As always, there are texts that I am indebted to, texts that I read during the initial composition of this work when I was living in New York between 2017 and 2018. While I was there, I would sit in Room 310 of Butler Library at Columbia University, Monday to Friday, reading world literature. On the front of the building, there are the names of various writers, philosophers and poets, many being heroes of mine. In the course of writing “Redgate”, I have thought deeply about David Hinton’s The Four Chinese Classics, Kabir’s The Weaver’s Songs, Dixon and Duwell’s Little Eva at Midnight Creek, Shakespeare’s Sonnets, John Lindow’s Swedish Legends and Folktales, various texts of Rumi, and The Essential Neruda. Their aspiration to accessibility, beauty, simplicity is different from where I come from, poetically speaking. Nevertheless, they continues to synthesise nature and social relations into a consciousness of lifestyle that is timelessly timely.
With “Redgate”, I want to be understood, to distil and make whiskey from dew. It meant a deeper engagement with language about a place my heart is fond of and what we might become when we work together. These poems are true to where I stand and what I live for.
Robert Wood is interested in place, relationships and ecology. He is the author of History and the Poet, and Concerning A Farm. Robert is the Chair of PEN Perth in Western Australia and has family in Singapore and South India. Find out more at: www.robertdwood.net