Short Eternities captures both the playful spirit of James Martin’s skilful wordplay as well as the deeper levels of soulful self-examination. His mastery of the sonnet is expressed through the ballet of syllables and rhymes which dance and delight across the lines of each page. Martin finds inspiration for poetry in life and love, in friendship and in felines, in humour and in humanity, moving with ease from the realms of the divine to those of the everyday.
Echoes of Keats, Pope, Byron, Eliot and Hopkins ring through Martin’s poems which also resonate with Shakespearean style and Spenserian sparkle. Classical allusions, biblical references and an occasional medieval troubadour nestle cosily alongside icons of popular culture and style. Rhythm and rhyme are well-employed to effortlessly weave word-pictures of perhaps a moment captured in time, a paean to a loved one, an expression of deep spiritual yearning or reflections of the responsibilities of being a cat lover:
‘And though I walk through death’s dark vale, I shall
Continue feeding Lucy … chum and pal!’
Martin possesses a rare skill in being able to use sophisticated and superb poetic forms to examine topics as diverse as a game of chess, sunbathing, the dark night of the soul, love eternal, and the majesty and mayhem of his cats. He approaches his poetry with technical discipline, a vast store of literary knowledge and skill, a deep yearning to understand the human condition, and an irrepressible sense of fun as shown in using an oxymoron as the title.
Martin hints that his poetry has an incipient life of its own, ready to leap onto the page and await the reader:
‘A far off place, in time and space and heart –
The street I sometimes walked, and sometimes passed –
Now wants to be a poem, and depart
This page a known quantity, at last.’
Short Eternities is presented in sections with an intriguing variety of titles such as ‘Autumn’, ‘Sophia’, ‘This Day’, ‘Winter Butterflies’ and ‘Sixty Sexy Sonnets’ which invite the reader to dip in and enjoy a leisurely lyrical encounter at a pace to suit the available time and mood. Certainly a volume to have nearby to pick up often and turn to as to a good friend, guaranteed to stimulate, bring a smile and an escape from the madding crowd.
Reviewed by Christine McGuigan July 2015
Available from Sid Harta Publishers http://sidharta.com/au/