Judith Beveridge- Wolf Notes
Exsanguination, The Kite, Sailor
Wolf Notes, a collection of poems by Judith Beveridge, relates the journey and ideas of Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha. The collection depicts his existence as he journeys away from his life of material possessions and towards a state of enlightenment. “Exsanguination” comes from the beginning or ‘Peregrine’ section of the collection and conveys the beginning of the journey that introduces the notion of karma or the law of cause and effect which is shown through nature’s revenge on man. Karma underlines the importance of in individuals being responsible for their past and present actions. In addition to this, “Exsanguination” shows the consumerist nature of society, which the Buddha wishes to escape. “The Kite” on the other hand comes from “between the palace and the Bodhi tree” and depicts the notion that enlightenment is reached through a journey of ones self and therefore the Buddha can not tell the boy anything that is certain. The final section or “signatures” is where “Sailor” comes from and shows the ultimate state of enlightenment and liberation.
Exsanguination in the Peregrine section conveys the Buddhists’ notion of karma and sin as well as atonement. Exsanguination, which means to literally drain of blood, portrays a sense of karma as nature takes the life of an innocent child. However the mosquitoes in the poem also represent the consumerism of society and the corruption of society that keeps taking and taking until there is nothing left. It is this exact society that the speaker and the Siddhartha wishes to escape so as to find spiritual fulfilment. Alliteration is used when “even snakes flooding confessions into the grass” depict values such as confession and therefore sin, which both relate strongly to Christianity. Beveridge conveys the fragility of life as “he was found in the reeds hit by the hardest ball the summer had stockpiled” however this also shows the idea of cause and effect in that what humans inflict on the landscape the environment will seek revenge in other ways. Furthermore the savagery of nature is juxtaposed with the savagery of human nature, a shown when Beveridge makes reference to human technology when describing nature. The “noise of chainsaws” shows this technique of using man’s technology to describe nature as well as a sense of karma and therefore the constant battle that humans have with nature. Despite being set in Louisiana, there is a sense of a universal message as the image of the squashed mosquitoes look like “red and black letters” which reflect the red and black of Chinese characters.
On the other hand “The Kite” demonstrates a sense of “distance” or disconnectedness that runs throughout the poem. This lack of connection shows the change in the Siddhartha as he continues on his journey, yet it also shows his understanding of the uncertainties of the future especially enlightenment. The section “Between the Palace and the Bodhi Tree” demonstrates through the voice of the Buddha the notion of levity and lightness, which are key ideas that run throughout Buddhism. Though the use of the image of the “cohort wind” represents the notion of enlightenment. The use of enjambment creates a sense of flow, which connects to the flight of the kite and its connection with the boy. However this idea is juxtaposed with the boy “who looked at me from a distance” this sense of separation and disconnection shows Siddhartha’s acceptance that the future is uncertain. Furthermore the connection that the boy holds with the kite and controls it, mirrors the way that a Monk’s mind must be controlled during mediation. The image of “a tiny bird in mid-air courtship” and “the precision of an insect targeting a sting” is suggestive of the appreciation of the minutia, which is a motif that runs throughout the section and the whole collection. However the term “courtship” alludes to a sense of connection, levity and lightness and Siddhartha ponders the relationship between consumerism and liberation. Beveridge uses many literary techniques such as onomatopoeia to describe how the “lightening cracked”. She also uses similes to allude to the idea of connection juxtaposed with disconnection as “(like quick pale flicks of yak-hair fly-wisks)” not only does this image compare with the onomatopoeic description of the lightening it also shows a moment of disconnection as the Buddha seems to fall momentarily out of a meditative state. The use of strong imagery such as “special silk” also connects with the concept of liberation as it depicts the fragility of meditation as well as spiritual enlightenment. Through a reflective calm and accepting tone Siddhartha shows that although he is uncertain of the future he is appreciative of the moment and understands the importance of things learned in the past and how they affect the future.
Finally, “Sailor” in the “Signatures” section of the collection, represents the Buddha’s final state of enlightenment; through the voice of a sailor who reflects upon his journey at sea. Beveridge uses metalanguage in this section to reflect upon writing poetry. She changes the tense to present in this section and uses metaphors such as that “slips again and again between my fingers” as way to signature her collection, and reflect upon her own journey. The reflective, meditative and observational mood of “Sailor” shows the clarity that is achieved when one completes their passage to enlightenment. There is a quiet acceptance in the sailor as he alludes to past “same old dog” and shows that there is sameness in life that brings about a sense of comfort. Furthermore a perfect understanding, infinite freedom and unrestricted creativity is alluded to in the “unfledged light”, “red-tailed tropical bird”, “a gull hitching a winched cry” and the “peregrine moon” which represent a sense of freedom and lightness and a feeling of movement within the poem. This can be linked with how Siddhartha found that it was a human’s deep craving for existence which led beings to roam from life to life in an endless round of suffering. With the cease of craving-birth, death and suffering also ceased. This realisation brought about a radical and dramatic change in Siddhartha’s being. All traces of his own craving died away, birth and death dissolved. The limited, human personality ‘Siddhartha’ dropped away and all that was left was total luminous clarity that is portrayed in “Sailor”, as “the moon peeling and pulling”, “the sky roil”, “the peregrine moon” and “an unbailed sky” all represent the immensity of nature, and the uncontrollable movement of time that suggests the insignificance of the sailor in the landscape.
‘Peregrine’, ‘Between the Palace and the Bodhi Tree’ and ‘Signatures’ combine to make the three chapters of Wolf Notes, which represents the three different stages within the Buddha’s journey towards enlightenment. The poems “Exsanguination”, “The Kite” and “Sailor” are all metaphors for the passage towards enlightenment. “Exsanguination” shows the importance of the Buddhist’s notion of Karma and sin, as well as atonement. Furthermore the metaphor shows how the Buddha wanted to distance himself from the consumerism of society that was represented through the mosquitoes. “The Kite” shows the juxtaposition of connection with disconnection as the Siddhartha ponders the relationship between the boy and the kite and himself and his mind and how they must both be controlled. Yet it also explores the notion of appreciation of the minutia, which becomes more apparent in the Siddhartha and he nears his final moment of liberation and spiritual enlightenment. It is clear that from this poem, enlightenment of the mind is different for everyone and cannot be defined as it is a journey of one’s self. In this way it connects to “Sailor” as the sailor, the Buddha and Judith Beveridge reflect on their own personal journeys. Additionally, “Sailor” shows the immensity of nature and the importance of self-refection and clarity in the enlightened state. All three chapters within Wolf Notes help to convey the Buddha’s journey to enlightenment- “a state of transcendental insight into the true nature of reality, to be awake to the highest reality, to things as they really are”.