Angel Voices: the poetry of Scott Hastie – A Review
‘Solving the Perpetual riddle of life’
"How stubborn life is,
It clings like silver in our souls”.
Angel Voices is Scott Hastie's third and most significant collection of poetry to date, providing definitive evidence of his evolved voice and enlightened philosophy. His hauntingly beautiful poems are reverently presented in this rich volume, without the appendage of titles - they flow freely like a river, carrying in their bosom the fertile alluvium of deeper meanings of life, unfolding with a relentless spiritual power that draws on the true colors of love, pain, hurt, grief, hope and optimism.
His words arrow straight into the reader's heart, aimed concertedly at the soul. Look how he openly he admits:
“Already I ache for all the lives
I will never be a part of.”
And elsewhere, on mortality:
“Like the soft dusting of fallen snow on hollow bones,
On the already broken, spilt corpse
Of souls long since departed.
Strengthened by the certainty
That the light I cherish and hold dear within
Will instead keep me safe and warm,
Till my own time comes…”
And on questions of inspiration:
“Sometimes illuminations come to us
From a past so long ago
That to fathom them is a test”
In Scott's poems we find benevolence, kneeling before us- assuring us of light, when all around is dark. What choice do we have then? Other than to be humbly shepherded into this divine space, sparkling with new a dawn. Angel Voices becomes a guiding star that dispels misery and despair. It is like a breath of fresh air, much as the poet himself who is self-admittedly:
"Endowed with a hungry soul,
That’s been enchanted to risk too much."
Here is another illustration here of his lyrical voice:
“So to have been where you have been
And to still have joy,
Dazzling in your heart,
Now there’s a thing to make the whole world smile.”
“If you can be,
Be entirely naked - as one to another.
Not just in your body,
But surrender also
Every close kept need,
Your fears, all that you hold dear…”
Marry that to yet another verse and you have it all:
“And, once achieved,
Should the levy of age,
The passing of years
Ever tempt you to doubt it,
Just pause for a moment and feel
How such sweet pivots in time
Ripen still, even in solitude.
Like fabulous guests
Re-visiting a sun-lit porch
That has waited seemingly forever
To welcome them home again.”
There are 96 pages of scintillating, inspirational poetry in Angel Voices, a brand new anthology that is an artful collection of carefully chosen gems from his previous title – Meditations, together with the best of his most recent unpublished writings. Furthermore, his poems seem to have emerged after prolonged personal battles with the unpredictability of life and it's hapless challenges. Scott's gentle voice and his golden innate wisdom guide one carefully towards a greater acceptance of things as they are. Don't let go of the perspective, his poems urge… Accept the travails of time, conquer your inner struggles, fight injustice, above all, be generous and open hearted and bow humbly to happenstance. Such are the treasures you can joyously re-emerge with, after diving deep into Scott's perennially intense poetry.
“The searing light of morning
Asks unwelcome questions,
Fragile hopes soon blistered by daylight.”
However later, in a substantial and coherent expression of surrendering to the universe, he writes:
We squeeze what we can
From a fluid landscape of life and light,
Gifted to us but for a moment
In the grand scheme of things.”
And then further still:
“Born, fractured by birth,
Into this place
Of limit and misapprehension,
Seemingly doomed before we begin.
But our salvation
Is the element of precognition,
Glowing seeds of foreknowledge,
Eons old, we all still carry within us,
That just sit awaiting triggers,
Dormant in our soul
Every single moment we live and breathe.”
Scott's poetry has the unique quality of turning bitter reality into a sweet pill that becomes easy to swallow, as he gives his readers the priceless vantage point of eternal hope. His soothing words can make even an emotionally devastating experience bearable, because they connect unerringly to an undeniable divine goodness. Indeed, positivity is at the core of his writing, which is always undoubtedly sanguine, buoyant, cheerful and idealistic – but never in an over the top, sermonizing way – but rather more in the form of delightfully delicate, knowing whispers…
See how he writes:
“Ultimately the challenge is simply
One of love and generosity
That brings all things together again.
Just to be open and joyful in your heart,
To have grace and compassion,
To trust that what people call God
Can be found in the spaces in between.”
One can only wonder at the source of Scott's endless joy and his unhesitating imparting of the same with his readers. Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in the deep alleys of the human soul - that indivisible, indestructible channel of consciousness that strikes at the festering base of materialism and transcends human emotions to higher realms of peace. Indeed, it is likely that the poet has experienced transcendental human nature... How else does any creativity display such sage-like, saint-like wisdom? The USP of his poetry is its ability to inspire! Such sacred talent can only be saluted for it has immense practical value.
Typifying the inspiration available is this:
“For sure, on some days,
Fate may seem heartless,
As if acting with intent to interfere,
To punish, or to twist you away
From where you think you want to be.
But there are surprises.
Fresh hope, new life
Sometimes finds its breath
In just such a clash of expectation.
And, as stories of destinies retold
Often remind us,
Even in a cruel coming together
Of opposing forces,
Something rare and beautiful,
Something precious can emerge.”
Angel Voices does not belong to your bookshelf. Its real place is next to your pillow - for that spell of night reading that liberates your soul and unmasks your inner yearnings. These are poems you walk into and tuck under your arms, like exquisite blooms that solve the conundrums of life. And then, when the journey gets rough, you can simply extract them and absorb the succor they provide and move ahead again, fortified with a new breath of precious courage.
“Life, wherever it leads,
Will always be the same,
It begs for the best of you”.
Another choice stanza epitomizes this:
Instead a permanent path
That, once illuminated,
Goes ever onward – a way home…”
And others, offering hope:
“And still the darkness waits for me,
As I know it will…
And ever more avariciously still,
As it senses my journey comes closer to fruition.
I know in my heart it is a given
That I can never entirely banish
This spectre of the night,
It will always be beside me, as it needs to be.”
There are also poems here that are startlingly direct, like a jolt on the elbow just when you've drifted into a dream like state. Such poems are frank and more temporal, providing just the right amount of relief from the atmosphere of abstractness. But even these verses are cohesive with the basic theme of Scott's poetry - which is that everything, whether man or nature, shines with an inner brilliance of its own.
“Just as, in perfect symmetry,
The emerging budded plant
Opens wide, toward the sun
And a stiff phallus will forever beg
For its home, for its comfort,
Deep into a soft inner refuge
So that it may speak, discharge itself.”
“Just as the frostiest of old maids
Secretly longs to tremble
With excitement in her bed,
One more time.
Or the pained young lover
Pitifully nurses a wound
That renders their heart homeless,
Mourning the loss of romance
Seemingly gone forever.
The truth is
Nothing that truly matters
Can ever evaporate,
Burnt out of your soul.
And however ready
We may or may not be,
At any stage in our life,
There will always be the chance
To reclaim our essence,
The shape we call our own.”
While dejection and pessimism have no place in Scott's poetry, authenticity and a valiant inner searching always do… This is what keeps Scott's poetry rooted to the reality of our times.
Two very metaphoric extracts embody this aspect of his writing:
"How barren is the vessel
That has no seed left within."
And this :
“In the soft, sun baked sand
History between my toes.
Even the smooth stones ache
With stories of their own
In the shuddering light of day.”
Analytically, Scott's poems seldom revolve exclusively around love. Especially not the slushy, superficial commercialised notion of love that so pervades our current culture. Instead, for Scott, love is both a divine and organic pulsating nerve that is knitted into almost all his poetry. It is grand in expanse, but brief like silhouettes in terms of its presentation. A remarkable artistic achievement!
His poems are fluid in form as well as in thoughts. He puts deliberate stress on the deep emotional connection of love, far above than the physical, lustful element. He vividly brings alive that first moment in which such emotions are successfully cocooned, rather than placing emphasis on the long drawn aftermath of any relationship. For Scott, love is nothing less than the instant conflagration of all senses – providing an all pervasive source of uplifting warmth that so beautifully creates inside us what he sees as vital niches, built for access later into what he identifies as potentially vast oceans of spiritual absorption and enlightenment.
Embodying this he writes:
“I am just like you,
Destined to play my part.
In the nature of my departure at least,
Some kind of sweet message behind
In the fathomless pattern I make.”
“Mislaid flame of tender emotions
Together we live to the point of tears,
I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Scott's enviable poetic skill also lies in his ability to express profound thoughts in very simple language. Rarely is his poetry didactic or pedantic - instead his poems are endearingly simple and transparent. Like these lines:
“I am sad, like the hot dust on the streets
And the music of fresh fallen leaves
Caught in a sliding summer breeze.”
It is easy to conclude that Scott's poetry is born from the travails and tribulations of the business of living, but the lessons that he imparts are unlike that of any regular advisor or counsellor, instead more like an intimate dialogue shared with a special friend, who always offer their shoulder to the one in need; his words written like a confidante – in fact like everyone's true soulmate… For just how deeply he understands the realities of life and, as acknowledges candidly in one of his poems:
"Circumstance toys with us all"
Nevertheless, Scott is also clearly a believer in destiny and his ultimate message to his readers, through his poetry, is to do whatever you feel you have to do, always with an open heart and as much honesty as you can muster.
Encapsulating this so beautifully, he writes:
“Give not honestly of yourself,
And you will corrode the core
Of much that matters.
Shine true instead
And you may well linger
In the light of love,
Maybe even longer
Than you feel you have a right to.”
Angel Voices is not a book to be missed! It can be read seamlessly by experienced literary enthusiasts and novices alike. And, given that rare quality, it is surely destined to sit not only on many personal bookcases, but also in the collection of every library, belonging to the great universities and esteemed literary institutions around the world. It is truly a milestone collection of timeless inspirational poetry, deserving of serious scrutiny from students and teachers of poetry, as well as readers from literally all walks of life, culture and faith. Without doubt, this precious little book therefore deserves its brilliant and well-earned place in the endless sunshine of literary immortality.