New Zealand born Basil Dowling wrote over 500 poems during his lifetime. His first three collections were published by the Caxton Press, beginning with A Day’s Journey (1941), followed by Signs and Wonders (1944) and Canterbury and other Poems (1949). In 1968, the University of Otago printed Hatherley: Recollective Lyrics. A further five volumes, which include A Little Gallery of Characters (1971), Bedlam: A Mid-Century Satire (1972), The Unreturning Native (1973), The Stream (1979), and Windfalls & Other Poems (1983), were published by the Nag’s Head Press. His poems have been included in numerous anthologies, published not only in Britain, New Zealand and Australia, but also in the United States, India and Scandinavia.
“While remaining constant to his native background, Basil Dowling became increasingly aware of the social and political issues of his time, ever true to his profoundly humane and radical views. He has left a body of carefully constructed poetry, full of sanity and wisdom, which achieves the dimension of ‘verbal magic’ for which he aimed.”
R.J. Barttelot, The Independent
9 September 2000
"Allen Curnow said that he had a gift ‘for catching a commonplace offguard’ and was ‘a quiet poet of carefully arranged understatements’"
Otago Daily Times
29 July 2000
“He had a liking for regular metres, tidy stanzas and full rhymes – traditional forms which he handled with grace and ease ... poetry so well made will not easily be forgotten.”
Dr. Peter Simpson, Auckland University
SAMPLE POEMS FROM BOOK
Between the Lines
You with the normal air
And the unscathed face
Your soul betrays no trace
Of grief or care:
No haggard eyes downcast,
Worn brow or looks aghast,
Or weary walking past.
I read, with no such signs,
Between the lines.
For I look much as you,
And the mirror shows
Bruises are none or few
From all life’s blows.
Yet I am one Time rends
With loss of joys and friends,
Making but poor amends.
I know you for another
Like me, my brother.
Here, in the sulphurous air,
Is acted a strange fable
Of gruesome witches’ cauldrons and hell-gates;
Plumed geysers shoot according to timetable
And cautious tourists walk
On shuddering ridges hot as boiler-plates.
How calmly their eyes watch
Earth, like a boy, amuse
Itself with noise and making round mud pies.
What if these wonders are the spluttering fuse
Which, with a cosmic shock,
Will split the world, and litter the wide skies?
Tight-folded in each oval pack,
Pale green, and haired with bristles black,
These poppy flowers wait
Till the hot signal of the sun
Unbuckles them; then, one by one
Their crumpled parachutes released
With silken shapes all seamed and creased
And many-coloured flare,
Tethered to earth, will float upon the air.
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