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The layers of earth Thomas, Patrick Hallman

Abstract

These fifty-seven poems are a partial record of three journeys, in five stages. The journeys are: (1) chronological growth through and from boyhood; (2) changes of physical environment, of place; (3) interior journeys relating in various ways to the other two. The stages, or movement of the poems, as revealed in the section divisions, is: (1) from a view of immediate surroundings; (2) through observation of a wider scene; (3) through exploration of social environment, with its interior counterpart; (4) through involvement in sociopolitical concerns; (5) and finally to a sharper focus on the individual again, this time on the individual's only truly shared group of sensations, love. The book has the only possible central theme: (birth-growth-love-death) life. The experiences we have are basically our responses to objects or forces. Our beings exist as a network of responses to physical, mental and social environment, these being but aspects of our own physical selves. We receive, observe, explore, express, and love, through sense and sensation. "We think by feeling." And we can feel only the surfaces (inside, outside, along the edges) because as soon as we are through one surface we are onto the surface of another layer. So, paradoxically, concern for surfaces pulls us deep into the object or experience; so also the response is the experience. ("The Medium is the message.") The poems then are surfaces, sensations, responses. And all of this is in a context of "earthness." "Earth" is the starting place and the raw material graveyard of all our mental, spiritual, and social structures. Our experiences, sensations, imaginings, thoughts, reactions, actions, hopes, fears, and natural-cultural environments are "but different aspects of one substance, ourselves, different layers of our own earth. Our journeys and our stages of development are travels through the layers of the earth. In structure, the whole collection parallels each part, and the essential structure of each poem. The poem looks above and below, within and without, ahead and back. Each section begins and ends with a poem looking both ways. The collection begins with a poem stating the "why" of it all, and ends with the "Beginning." The main theme of each section is interwoven through the other sections. Unity is provided also by re-occurrence of symbols and images, and by a certain tone or point of view throughout. But the significances of these elements change with changing context, as the poems uncover successive "layers of earth."

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