Saturday, March 23, 2013

Lux aeterna: Paul Stevens

Alas, there is need for a second post today--alas, for it too is about a death. Poet and culture-maker and lovely man Paul Stevens died this morning in Australia, with all his family about him. Thanks to poet Janet Alexa Kenny for letting his many fans and friends know. I'm thinking of the close of his poem about Tasmania: "At last to sail free / Between southern capes / Thick with kelp and wild foam, / With wave awash, surging, / Late sun on the headland,  / And shadow down valley / Past all memory."

The Flea.
Cover image by Mark Bulwinkle.
Born in Yorkshire, Paul Stevens lived in Australia for most of his life. He graduated from the University of Sydney with an Honours degree in Early English Literature and Language, and studied history and archaeology as well. He taught history and literature in New South Wales, where he lived with his wife and family. He was a wide-ranging reader and thinker and generous to many.

Many of us are grateful to his work in founding magazines of formal poetry. The Shit Creek Review. Chimaera. The Flea. I tend to think the marvelous Flea his crowning glory as a magazine founder, as it is so very different from all other poetry magazines and so interesting in its relation to literary history--binding his love of Renaissance and metaphysical poetry to his love for his contemporaries. Artist Makoto Fujimura has talked about "caring for our culture." Paul Stevens was an example, a caretaker of culture.

Pax tecum, Paul Stevens, father and teacher, maker of poems and marvelous 'zines. I wish that I had known you sooner; I am glad that I knew you in the marvelous aether of the internet, where minds brush against one another despite all distance in space. Even now your words and your poetry 'zines touch us, although we are severed from you in time.

The Relics 

Archaeologists in Italy have unearthed two skeletons 
thought to be 5,000 to 6,000 years old, locked in an embrace. 
Their sex has not yet been determined. (BBC)

Mother to daughter, softly touching, is it?
Sister to sister's delicate embrace?
Friend to friend, companions past corruption?
Brother to brother, face to well-loved face?

The wheat crop rippled in the heat, the cattle
Grazed sweet grass, milk splashed in bowls of clay;
All fell to dust; from dust these rise, recovered
As brush and trowel lift slow time away.

Lover to lover, holding all that's dear,
They gaze into each other's eyes, long blind,
Stripped back to bony gesture: stubborn relics,
So much of earth, so much of human kind.

     Originally published in Poemeleon, reprinted in The Hypertexts


  1. Oh, dear. He published a poem of mine. Our correspondence cheered me so, and his kind words enriched my poet self. I, too, had only just made his acquaintance. Now you write he has gone.

    Surely losing someone, one we consider a friend even without having met him in person, this then must be the bane of the web-o-sphere, for it offers no wake by which we might assuage our grief.

    Filled with sadness to read of his death. Appreciate your noting it here. I commiserate with you, for it was you, Marly, who helped me learn of him and his many fine works.

  2. He was a darling man!

    So glad you e-met him. Lovely to think you met him through me--I appreciate that! He was definitely a pleasure to know, entertaining and droll and wise all at once.

    Yes, I think that all we can do is share the news with others--I always link blog posts to twitter and facebook, and lots of people have reacted elsewhere to this and other announcements by people who liked and valued him. The death is certainly not going without notice and some sort of public mourning.

    I felt a deep sadness about it, and I know others do as well. Which is sweet, isn't it? That we can affect others so deeply with only the medium of words, never meeting in the flesh.

  3. My hot link to Elsa's poem at "The Flea" somehow zoomed to the error page at the 'zine. So why don't you just google "Elsa Louise von Schreiber" and "The Flea" and "Three Wishes" if you'd like to take a look at her poem?

    I did! Go see...

    And it's great fun to noodle around in the 'zine waters, seeing what great catfish you can pull up from the depths.

  4. Thank you, my friend.

    From The Flea, a link to one of yours:

    and mine:

    Let us raise our glasses in honoring a great man and his life and his work in championing the cause of poetry.

  5. Elsa Louise, thanks! I should've just listed the address even if it was not hot. Drat, I do not know why I am having trouble hotlinking in the comments... The only one that linked semi-properly went to the wrong page at the site.

    So anyone who wants to read these will have to paste them in the address bar.

    I wrote that mine especially for the "flea celebration!" So glad he had an online flea party of sorts...

    Yes, indeed! He cared about many things and cared for and grew the culture. To Paul!

  6. No worries. Sometimes the links hyperlink automatically; other times, not.

    There’s a bit of code one can use to enclose the link when the website structure doesn’t provide it; still, ’tis easy enough to cut and paste these, as you note.

    Perhaps someone will throw Paul an e-wake. How did you learn of his death? I did a quick search online, but nothing has yet appeared.

  7. I did use the html code properly, but it didn't work right, so I suppose it is a blogger glitch in the comments--it works right in post-coding.

    Yes, I imagine there will be a lot on line...

    I learned about it this morning from his fellow now-Aussie poet, Janet Alexa Kenny.

  8. You will not mind if I give it a try? Because I do it rarely and want to refresh my memory. And if it works, so much the better.




    I shall keep a watch for memorials. Paul will certainly be missed by many. Condolences sent to his family and loved ones.

  9. Still not going. Oh, well. It has been flighty before...

    Yes, there may be some interesting things to come. I'll leave you a note here if I see anything you might like to see, as people often leave fb links.

  10. When I mouse over the links, they change to blue and the underline appears but I, too, go nowhere.


  11. ...and in re notes, yes, please do.


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.