James Phillip McAuley
James Phillip McAuley was an Australian academic, poet, journalist, literary critic and a prominent convert to Roman Catholicism.
Life and career
McAuley was born in Lakemba, a suburb of Sydney. He was educated at Fort Street High School and then attended Sydney University where he majored in English, Latin and philosophy. In 1937 he edited Hermes, the annual literary journal of the University of Sydney Union, in which many of his early poems were published until 1941.
He began his life as an Anglican and was sometime organist and choirmaster at Holy Trinity Church, Dulwich Hill in Sydney. McAuley lost his Christian faith as a younger man.
In 1943 ... more »
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James Phillip McAuley Poems
A ray of light, to an oblique observer, Remains invisible in pure dry air; But shone into a turbid element It throws distracting side-gleams everywhere
The magpie's mood is never surly every morning, wakening early, he gargles music in his throat,
Spring stars glitter in the freezing sky, Trees on watch are armoured with frost. In the dark tarn of a mirror a face appears.
Durer: Innsbruck, 1495
I had often, cowled in the slumbrous heavy air, Closed my inanimate lids to find it real, As I knew it would be, the colourful spires
A year ago you came Early into the light. You lived a day and night, Then died; no one to blame.
Meanwhile, In Another Part Of The War
On the street of the concrete refugee tenements That have collapsed into the smoking holes The Israeli rockets blew open at dawn’s early light, The sundered limbs and torsos of a Jenin family
A Poem in Place of a Lecture
This morning, friends, the blackboard will be black Behind my skull: your eyelids will be slack, And I could wearily cajole from you, or you, Slow answers to dull questions; or grow annoyed
My father and my mother never quarrelled. They were united in a kind of love As daily as the Sydney Morning Herald, Rather than like the eagle or the dove.
That each thing is a word Requiring us to speak it; From the ant to the quasar, From clouds to ocean floor-
At a Child's Grave
A sky contused and rifted like a wound: Red-amber gum exudes from the dark tree; A long day’s dying. Small anatomy Locked in this nameless grave’s neglected mound,
Not how you would be thought of, your color Being grey, silky, like a second skin, your hair Flecked with it. Now, hearing your way of saying Iridescent while I read your poem, three years
Comments about James Phillip McAuley
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A ray of light, to an oblique observer,
Remains invisible in pure dry air;
But shone into a turbid element
It throws distracting side-gleams everywhere
And is diminished by what takes the eye.
So poetry that moves by chance collision
Scatters its brightness at each random mote
And mars the lucid order of its vision.
The purest meditation will appear
Faint or invisible to those who glance
Obliquely at its unreflected beam;